Category: Squad

The Case for the Defence

The Case for the Defence

Rangers Defenders

Since the turn of the year, a large focus on Rangers has been the perceived lack of goals the team has been scoring when contrasted with the possession and chances created. While this is indeed a concern, particularly with the on-going injury to Martyn Waghorn, it’s worth pointing out the obvious – that it’s not just goal scorers that help to win games and titles; defenders  and goalkeepers all have vital parts to play. To that effect the Rangers defence, coupled with the very able Wes Foderingham in goal, appear to have stepped up to the plate at a very crucial time.

There are a number of factors that are contributing to this new found solidity: Andy Halliday is getting to grips with the defensive side of his role; Ball has been a rock in midfield when required; the positional sense and covering ability of Wallace and Tavernier when the other is attacking has improved; Foderingham has pulled off some crucial saves; the individual errors that were commonplace for the first half of the season appear to have all but disappeared and the teams possession football have all played their part, but the main difference is that Danny Wilson and Rob Kiernan look as if they are becoming a defensive unit and their positioning in relation to one another has improved markedly. As neither is the fastest player on the planet, this positioning is vital. In the first half of the season, it was all too common to see a hopeful ball launched up the park causing chaos in the heart of the Rangers defence as neither Wilson or Kiernan appeared to know what the other was doing. Now they are dealing with this type of ball with relative ease.

This visible improvement in the Rangers defending is fully backed by the stats: since the new year Rangers have played 13 times for the loss of just 5 goals. Of the 8 games Rangers have played through February and March the team have actually only scored 12 goals but vitally, they have also kept 6 clean sheets, losing only 2 goals.

In comparison with the improvement in the Rangers, our supposed nearest rivals in the league at the moment (though now in 3rd place)  have lost 12 goals since the turn of the year – 9 of them since the start of February. However, it is the last 3 league games that have made the real difference, as Hibs have shipped 7 goals to Rangers none. The Rangers defence has been watertight, while Hibs dramatic downturn defensively has torpedoed their title ambitions, leaving them 14 points adrift in the title race.

This is not to suggest the Rangers defence is infallible – far from it. As mentioned previously neither central defender is blessed with pace and the general lack of height within the team leaves Rangers vulnerable at set plays and corners. Both players – particularly Danny Wilson – have struggled mightily at times this season and are still prone to errors. However, credit where credit is due: at a crucial time of the season the excellent form of the centre of the defence has enabled Rangers to win games where the strikers have been struggling to find the net with the regularity they have achieved earlier in the season. Against Dundee in the cup some last ditch tackles from Kiernan helped Rangers to again hold firm and enabled the team to progress against Premiership opposition with relative ease, into a much anticipated Scottish cup semi final against Celtic.

However, there is no room for complacency. There are 9 games to go in the league, with away games at Falkirk and Hibs among them and the cup semi final looms large on the horizon. Rangers have managed to bag a few goals in the recent cup win against Dundee, but the sooner the team regains their scoring touch in the league, the easier and more entertaining the run in will be and the onus on having to keep clean sheets can be relieved somewhat, with the potential for young players such as Liam Burt to get some game time when little is at stake.

Until then there is a job to do and a league to be won with the added bonus of a cup semi final against our oldest rivals to be savored. There is a bit of work left to do, before this Rangers defence can rest.

Category: Squad

Chaos Theory

In the age of televised football saturation where ex-pros over-analyse every move and every mistake, goals and defeats now appear to be always someone’s fault:the forward should have scored; the centre half wasn't tight enough to his marker; the midfield didn't track back; the goalkeeper shouldn't have tried to punch the ball; Whatever the circumstance, in the modern world of football punditry, there always appears to be someone to blame. 

It is therefore refreshing for someone to concede that sometimes thing don’t pan out the way you want them to, regardless of tactics, preparation, execution and that the gods of football can be fickle. Following the recent draw at home to Kilmarnock, the Rangers Manager, Mark Warburton bemoaned the fact that a game of football doesn't always follow the best laid plans:

"It’s the random nature of football. Sometimes it drops your way be it a penalty kick or a corner or a goal kick or an offside, whatever it might be. The random events of football sometimes go your way, sometimes they don’t. I think the last couple of games they haven’t gone our way but I'm delighted with the quality of football."

However, Rangers should not need luck for the next game against Alloa. If the team plays well things should not come down to chance, as results against Alloa this season have seen Rangers  score nine goals for the loss of one. Alloa themselves are seeking to maximise their own chances by narrowing the pitch mid-season in an obvious nod to the strength of Rangers on the flanks, as they seek to minimise the space the wingers have to play in and avoid the four and five goal defeats they have previously suffered. However, Mark Warburton has responded to this by altering the training methods the Rangers team have had to go through by having the players train on an artificial surface, in narrower and smaller areas, in order that the players can experience having the ball under pressure in tight and difficult circumstances, as he seeks himself to leave nothing to chance.

Rangers control of this season's encounters culminated in a possession stat of a whopping 70% for the home team when the teams last played at Ibrox.  Should Rangers turn that much possession into chances and then convert a few,lady luck should have very little to do on the day.

Written by cushynumber

Category: Squad

A Game of Numbers

Three chairmen, three managers and third place.  For Season 2014/15, three was certainly not the magic number for Rangers.  Never since three points were awarded for a win have Rangers picked up as few points in a league campaign.  However, it’s onwards and upwards for the club, with wholesale changes planned over the summer.