One thing we have seen since our last article is there’s now a lot of debate about should Rangers play with two up-front.
But one question is why was I screaming so loud for two up front against Liverpool last week, and why was I happy with only one up front in all the matches Rangers played last year in the Europa League?
Well, let start with the game against Liverpool. Here the answer can be seen after just 50 seconds of the match. Liverpool has the ball, and Morelos was up front, surrounded by five Liverpool players. There were then three Rangers players positioned around the centre circle.
At this point it is very easy to see the problem. Morelos, in the first minute had been given absolutely no chance by Gio to do anything in this match.
The entire match he was left entirely alone up front. He ran around as much as he could, but playing all night against five Liverpool players…that was Gio just being cruel.
But that is only where our problems started. Because every single time the ball went into the Liverpool half, Liverpool could then take 5 to 20 second to rest, regroup and launch a new attack.
With our setup, it was just impossible for Morelos to get the ball all on his own, and even when one of our midfield did try to come up to support him, it was still five against two.
Nope, the only way you could put pressure on Liverpool at that point in the game was if the entire midfield came forward, but they couldn’t…
And the reason why couldn’t move forward is they had their hands tied.
Gio had put out a back five defensive line!
So, if even just one midfielder tried to go forward to help Morelos we would then be down to three in midfield, and Liverpool could then easily overload the midfield by letting the strikers drop back just a little bit, and suddenly the Rangers players found they were outnumbered five to three in the middle of the park.
At that point Liverpool then had all the time in the world to decide, from the midfield, where they were going to attack from, and just like that, every two minutes the ball was in our box.
With this horrendous setup, not only was it impossible for Rangers to get anywhere near the ball, the natural result was to slowly suck our midfield back into our penalty box.
And at this level, a back five almost always means you will lose.
So, can you win against Liverpool using a lone striker up front? Yes, you can, but then you need to swamp midfield, and go with a back three to create a 3-1-4-1-1 type formation, where the most advanced midfielder can move forward to support the striker, and the defensive midfielder is there to break Liverpool’s high press. This we finally did in the last 10 minutes, and we almost scored a goal.
But after 80 minutes of getting our backside handed to us, at this point in the game our players were knackered, and their confidence was gone.
A back three line does means Liverpool will be able to run at your back line, and there are times you will have to ride your luck, but guess what. With a back five Liverpool can easily walk to your back line and take pot shots all night.
I know which of the two options I prefer.
But the question was why should we have played with two up front. Why would a second striker help us against Liverpool?
Well, going back to the 50-second mark, when poor wee Morelos was surrounded by five Liverpool players, there will be times where the two front strikers will also be surrounded by four or five Liverpool players. So, a front two is unlikely to make the Liverpool back line sweat, just on their own.
But this is where the numbers game starts to level out.
Now, if just one single midfielder comes forward there are now three Rangers players facing the Liverpool back three.
Suddenly things are now more balanced, and all it now requires is a defensive midfielder to come forward just a little bit, to plug any potential gaps at the centre, and this now forces Liverpool to start playing the ball just a wee bit more quickly.
When the game is played faster there is more room for mistakes, but in this case that plays to our advantage, because even when the game is played slowly let’s be honest we make loads. So, playing faster affects Liverpool more than us.
The other difference is what happens when a Liverpool attack breaks down. With two up front there is now more chance that a breakout can score a goal. Again, this is just a numbers game. So, against Liverpool a front two has substantial benefits, as Brighton and Napoli found out.
So why did we not insist on two strikers when we were playing PSV?
Well the reason is they are not Liverpool. Yes, PSV have loads of good players, but their players are not as fast as Liverpool in ball control, speed and thought. The skill level is just a different level.
From my analysis we can win with just one lone striker, but the team has to play as a solid team. We have to be able to play the ball out from the back, which means our players have to work as a solid unit, and we must play to control the middle of the park. That means working harder than Liverpool, and making them know they’ve been in a game. This is something we have done many times before (last year), and if we just do the same again, it is possible to get a result.
Likewise, even with two strikers, we still have to play as a solid unit, with players working their socks off to give the player who has the ball a way out.
For this reason, we cannot play Kamara. Kamara hides far too often behind opposition players, so that no-one can pass the ball to him, and he still doesn’t bother turning his head to see what is around him, and he still refuses to bust a gut and run at a hundred miles an hour to support his teammates.
Davis cannot be let on the field. His style is alright against SPFL teams, but he needs to be quicker and more forceful to play against Liverpool. Davis just handicaps Lundstram.
And Goalak needs to be on from the beginning in this game, period.
My gut feeling is if we do play a more compact game, a game similar to that we played last year in the Europa League, we can beat Liverpool. That is not me being a dreamer, Liverpool are not invincible.
Just now many of these top league teams are just given too much respect, and the fear shown by the other team just makes them look good – for evidence of that see our last games against Ajax and Liverpool.
Gio we do respect you. You made small tweaks to the team last year and got us to the final.
But Gio, this year you are wrong. Rangers are good enough to beat Champions League teams. We beat Champion League teams last year…
The problem is you are just too scared to let our players have the chance to show what they can do.
Your fear has crippled Rangers, but it’s time to let it go.