After watching the weekend’s match a few times there is a lot to pack in to this short review.
The first is it is clear that the management team is trying to drill into this team the importance of playing controlled accurate passing football out from the back, and in the first 15 minutes Arsenal realised they were in a game, and I was one happy fan
We were passing out from the back and breaking through their high-press, and things looked really good.
Then we scored and Arsenal re-aligned their team to try to take control the midfield, and that is when everything fell apart.
Can we be honest now?
When Ryan Jack and Scott Arfield are not in the team we do not have a midfield, period.
Kamara and Joe Aribo (who didn’t play yesterday) are silky smooth, but they need grafters around them, who are able to do the hard, dirty work for them. John Lundstram is promising but needs time to get up to speed.
Throughout the game most of our midfield was just far too high up the park, and as a unit they showed no desire to assist the defenders, and that left Arsenal free to cut off all the channels and to dominate the park.
In fact, not once did I see them re-align their play to give any real substantial help to the defenders, and not once do I really remember the midfield playing any controlled football that allowed the strikers to shoot at goal.
I hate to say it, but in the last three years, when I was reviewing all the teams Rangers would play in the Europa League I just knew the old Rangers team would tear these poorly drilled teams apart…
but now we look exactly like the teams we routinely tore apart. And it’s finally time to stop pretending everything is all OK, and address the Jack issue ASAP. We hope that can be Lundstram but we can’t be sure yet.
A proper defensive midfielder is essential in every top team, because it’s the defensive midfielder’s job to overload the high press, and to take advantage of the gaps, that allow the ball to be fed reliably to the attacking midfielders, and the strikers.
Were Arsenal really that good. To be honest, no they weren’t.
After Arsenal gained control of the midfield their tactic was very simple. Maintain the high press, and any time Rangers were able to break out, just haul the player down.
They had huge gaps at the back, which two years ago we routinely took advantage of.
Any team that is allowed to park four strikers in the box is going to look good, and the only reason why a team can park 4, 5 or 6 players in our box is when our midfield is AWOL.
So, Rangers…can we be honest? With Ryan Jack missing, we lack his defensive shielding – as we say, Lundstram needs time.
With no Ryan Jack present, (with the exception of Davis and Arfield) all our remaining midfielders just jog up the park, sometimes with THEIR BACKS TO THE BALL, and then they simply wait for our defenders to do all the hard work.
And I think it is now clear that the best players at Rangers just now are our defenders.
They were the ones who really won 55 for us.
In fact, throughout most of Saturday’s match the only real attacking threat we saw in the Rangers shirt were almost all initiated by our back four.
The goal on 74 minutes, (where I have to say Scott Arfield just beautifully dragged his defender way out of position, which then caused at least three other Arsenal defenders to become momentarily confused) that build-up came almost entirely from the hard work of our defenders.
Here, it was the sudden appearance of Patterson and Edmundson on the wing that led to the corner…
If they had left it to our midfielders….do you think we would have got any corners?
In fact, can you remember any attacking move that was 100% initiated by our midfielders? Yep, there were two, and both came from….Scott Arfield, who has only just came back from injury.
So, is it all doom and gloom?
Nah, far from it; football is a team game, and with a proper defensive midfielder this huge massive hole in our team can be easily patched, and that will allow our silky players to start to dominate the midfield, and at that point we will again have a very strong team.
Perhaps Scott Arfield could be trained to adapt to Ryan Jack’s role alongside Lundstram?
(Being blunt, amongst our current first picks for midfield, there is only Davis and Scott Arfield who truly know how to change the direction of a game)
And Scott Arfield clearly has the strength to be able to bring the ball out from the back.
So, this is a real possibility, and Scott Arfield looks like he is fit, ready and is as sharp as ever.
Rangers play football to win…
Our goal is to actually play in the knock-out phase, and to see how far we truly can go.
But until we get some cover for our defensive midfield we are going to struggle big time, and if we don’t get this sorted soon, I honestly do not think we will reach the group stages.
And that is worrying.