Steven Gerrard has been getting plaudits from all corners for Rangers’ season, and rightly so.
His influence has completely changed Scottish football, giving us back the Rangers we deserve and even scaling incredible heights in Europe.
But, from a technical point of view, Gerrard’s influence on the system Rangers actually have is less than you might think – it’s really down to the genius of Michael Beale, whose tactical nous and knowledge mostly built the playing environment we see before us.
Beale gave it away pre-season when he explained the new system had been designed around Joe Aribo, and he revealed technical aspects of the playing setup which he reckoned few onlookers would have seen.
This was essentially from the point of view of the man who designed it – and Rangers and indeed Steven Gerrard owe Beale a tonne.
They’re a perfect pair – Beale drafts up the system, and Stevie and he tweak it to how the manager wants it.
Stevie wants a 4-3-3? Great – Beale builds a system with tactical adjustments and Stevie then picks the players he wants best and how he wants it to work, which Beale then tweaks.
Stevie wants a bank of two in the middle with wide men – great, Beale puts that together.
It’s a wonderful team, Beale and Gerrard, but the architect is definitely Beale.
Gerrard is the motivator, the icon, the man who makes the big decisions – indeed, Beale simply drafts up the options and Stevie then chooses the right one.
Or the wrong one – sometimes the boss gets it wrong, but that’s on him and not Beale.
In training, Beale is the one putting the players through their paces, making sure they’re working to the system Stevie wants, and the manager watches on thoughtfully.
It’s symbiosis at its best, but the way the team plays is fundamentally down to Michael Beale and his football brain.
That said, as much as we respect and admire Beale’s massive role in Stevie’s team, the players bust the gut for the manager, not the assistant. The players play for their manager, not the trainer who puts them through their paces.
But Stevie would be the first to give so much credit to this stunning season to Beale – without his tactical acumen and studious approach, Rangers would not have had half the success we had this campaign.