Rangers learned a lot about themselves yesterday – the cliché proven true once again, as we lick our wounds at what went wrong in a match we really should have won comfortably.
While we’ll pore over the post-mortem of events at Tynecastle over the next while, there was a huge standout revelation yesterday.
It was something Ibrox Noise discussed a few weeks ago, about how tactically Rangers don’t really have a formation as such, and instead it relies on movement and filling holes to work.
And the biggest success of that system, of the way Gerrard plays – Ryan Jack.
As we mentioned in the same entry, he is by far the best at playing this system, whereby he fills gaps left by others and covers the holes brilliantly, as well as filling up front and supporting attack.
And his void yesterday was one of the biggest reasons Rangers were unable to get any sort of purchase during the 90.
You see, none of Joe Aribo, Steven Davis or Glen Kamara played bad matches – in fact our ratings suggest all of them were fairly good. But this alone wasn’t enough for the overall system – the system of possession that the manager prefers. We can nitpick later at all the other problems which materialised yesterday, but the absence of Ryan Jack may have been the biggest of all.
With no Jack, it was left to no one in particular to fill those gaps – Aribo, Davis and Kamara all took a reasonable amount of responsibility on themselves at trying to plug the holes off the ball, but in doing so, Rangers’ midfield was unable to dominate possession and dictate the flow of the game.
Furthermore, James Tavernier was again exposed by no Jack, as he was v Young Boys – with the first goal it was just dreadfully inept defending from the captain, but the second was after Jack was gone and Tavernier found himself completely exposed in a much higher position than he would normally be. He wildly slid in and got it all wrong.
And yesterday again the edge of the box was utterly exposed with no Jack there to cover it, this time Tavernier blundered with a horrendously timed header, something Jack would have certainly nailed.
In short, Ryan Jack is critical to how Rangers play, and crucially, defend – there is zero coincidence two of the three goals conceded in the past three matches have been without him on the pitch.
He is not the only reason Rangers failed to win yesterday, it goes deeper than that – but there’s no doubt his presence on the pitch would have made Rangers much, much stronger.
We miss him.