Philippe Clement and Rangers’ strange tactics v Benfica

Philippe Clement and Rangers’ strange tactics v Benfica
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 14: Philippe Clement, Manager of Rangers, looks on prior to the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 round of 16 second leg match between Rangers FC and SL Benfica at Ibrox Stadium on March 14, 2024 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

We’re going to be controversial (for a change) on Ibrox Noise and further expand on an issue which we touched on last night, and Rangers’ loss to Benfica.

There is no question Rangers could have beaten our Portuguese foes over those two legs, the first leg being incredibly unfortunate with an OG and a non-penalty.

But what we’re bewildered by are the tactics manager Philippe Clement employed at Ibrox for the second leg.

Just why did he play the match as if we were 0-3 down on aggregate?

The bizarre tactics where all outfield players were in the opposing half at set pieces and corners was clearly some kind of tactic in the absence of Dujon Sterling.

See, Sterling caused a real ruckus in that first leg – his big presence caused a stir in Benfica’s rearguard, and they had to use more than one man to try to deal with him. But for bad luck, Rangers would have taken a deserved lead back to Ibrox.

But with his not being there in the second leg, Clement tried something strange, rather than something cautious.

Instead of playing a more cautious approach by methodically containing the Portuguese and seeking an opener with modest care, Clement seemed to think we were 0-3 down and threw a top-heavy tactic where we played a suicidally high defensive line and had all players aside Jack Butland up front for corners.

He was aggressively and rather recklessly chasing a match we had somewhat under our control already, and we don’t know why.

Was it just the absence of Sterling? Did Scott Wright’s inability to cover Tavernier cause Clement to offer this rebuttal?

We don’t see the link there at all, but we’re not experts.

Thing is, despite overloading Benfica’s half and box, Rangers didn’t come that close to laying a glove. A few soft shots at Trubin’s goal, where only the Ukrainian’s own nerves were a threat to the Portuguese as he fumbled at an early Tom Lawrence drive.

The most dangerous Rangers were was Scott Wright’s rampaging run and deft pass to Cyriel Dessers, whose shot was blocked and went away for a corner. That was really about it.

Clement’s tactics just didn’t work, sorry to say. He did appear to be trying something different to counter having no Sterling, but it was a very odd choice of system.

It left Connor Goldson exposed several times, given he was frequently the only man back defending. He didn’t have his worst match by any means, and wasn’t helped by the system which was front-heavy and exposed the rearguard.

Dare we also suggest the system left Diomande lost too – he normally presses well, and uses the ball efficiently, but looked a shadow of his bright usual self as he stumbled through the match.

Clement’s post-match words were of ‘pride’ and that our conceded goal was a ‘mistake’.

A strange offering of comments, or maybe an admission that the tactics didn’t quite work?

Either way, Rangers are out of Europe now and it’s time to focus 100% on the league.

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  1. Take it all day myself. Double header v the weakest side left in Marseille would only lead to 2 heavy defeats against Liverpool in the semis and at the cost of how many players? We’d end up playing the Old Firm with Cole Mackinnon and Yfeko in the starting line-up.

    Squad down to the bones, again, losing more to injuries and an energy sapping/confidence destroying 2 legged shot against the Premier League leaders, could totally derail our season.
    Gutted we’re out, but glad we never got embarrased and can now fully focus on the last 2 peices of silverware. 56 is coming!

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