The truth about Rangers’ mysterious 4-3-3

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 06: Rangers manager Steven Gerrard (L), with assistant Gary McAllister in the dug out during the Pre-Season Friendly between Rangers and Bury at Ibrox Stadium on July 6, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

We alluded to this in the piece about Joe Aribo, but since Michael Beale mentioned earlier in the season about building a formation around the Nigerian the system has been of great interest.

It was abundantly clear in the early portion of the campaign that the formation had been tweaked to a fluid 4-2-3-1, with effectively a front four.

However, with Aribo playing on the right of a front three and the left of a middle three, it’s even clearer now the formation has changed again, back to the 4-3-3.

Or has it?

This is the tenet of our conversation here, because it’s hard to actually pinpoint what Rangers’ formation is, and here’s our point:

We don’t seem to have a formation.

Rangers effectively have a back two, one of whom is forward thinking (Goldson) and the two fullbacks, also forward thinking.

A sitting midfielder now hovers in front of defence, sometimes partnered, and then Rangers basically have a completely fluid, dynamic and interchanging front eight.

In short, while sometimes it might look like a 4-3-3, or look like a 4-2-3-1, it’s a completely dynamic formation which adapts to the match and the opponent.

It is quite simply a non-formation, but instead an understanding and system between players.

There are some general rules, but not many, and the big advantage this system has is players swap with each other all the time.

Scott Arfield, Aribo, Kamara, Kent, and even Morelos all maraud throughout the pitch, and where one player swaps to another slot, another fills in for him.

It’s a never-ending switching around, and that kind of tactic is incredibly difficult to defend against.

How many times have we seen Kent switch between the front three positions, then even play deeper?

How many times has Alfredo come to midfield, linked up, then worked the channels?

And of course James Tavernier is Scotland’s top scorer and assist king – he’s a RB for goodness’ sake.

Arfield, Jack, Kamara – none of them are pinned down to any one slot, and this adaptability makes the formation absolutely devastating.

On paper it’s 4-3-3, but in reality it’s absolutely whatever it needs to be.