Rangers 5 - 1 St Johnstone

Sunday's 5-1 win over St Johnstone wasn't just Rangers' most emphatic win, I feel it was the biggest step forward they've made tactically under Steven Gerrard, Gary Mac and possibly most importantly Michael Beale.

For those unaware of Michael Beale, he was a youth coach in England before becoming assistant manager at Brazilian giants São Paulo and is now first-team coach at Rangers. He'll be well known to any young coach who is active on the internet as Beale is pretty prominent in coaching circles in Britain especially.

Before we get to Sunday's game I want briefly to discuss another. What does this picture remind you of? Clue - the white team in particular.

Yes, Aberdeen away on the opening day. Rangers lost Morelos to an early red card and drew 1-1 but Rangers were tactically superb in the fixture. The above picture is actually taken from a blog post by Michael Beale in June 2017 on the discussion of preparing the team in training to play with a man down. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail as some say.

I get the feeling Michael Beale is obsessed with overloads. Creating numerical advantages with and without the ball. In that Aberdeen fixture, the numerical advantage was already with Aberdeen due to the sending off however similar to the picture Rangers made sure that the only overload they could create was with the CBs. That lead to Aberdeen not having any real attacking advantage at all despite the extra man. Aberdeen couldn't get near the goal nevermind put real pressure on but a late lapse cost Rangers 2 points when they deserved all three.

Going into the St Johnstone game I hoped we'd see a game without any real context to it. No red cards, no Russia trip and a game against a decent side. Thankfully we got that. From a tactical point of view, I think this game is the biggest step forward Rangers have made so far under Gerrard and his staff.

The 5-1 victory brought us one of if not the best performance by Alfredo Morelos in a Rangers shirt but arguably the most complete. We know he'll work hard, pester defenders and generally make life as difficult as possible but he was that and a lot more.

His first real involvement was in the opening goal. Arfield has the ball halfway inside the St Johnstone half with James Tavernier being the most obvious and open pass but Arfield carries the ball further, plays in Morelos who dropped deeper before putting in the onrushing Arfield and Tavernier who gained the free kick. It wasn't vintage play but it set the tone for what would be a quite different Morelos performance with devastating results.

His goal was everything we've become accustomed to. He finds a way to beat a defender usually from a tight angle and smashes it home. Vintage Alfredo.

Morelos always excelled in linking with the midfielders but on Sunday he was doing it from much deeper positions, especially in the second half. Like below he dragged Shaughnessy closer and closer towards the halfway line before receiving it and laying it off quickly or spinning the centre back and going towards goal.

Arguably his best moment was a back heel turn before setting up Ryan Kent who smashed the bar but had Arfield ready to hit the back of the net.

Whilst you want your striker to be near the box, the impact that Morelos had on Arfield's game in the second half was pivotal. Arfield got a goal and 2 assists and Morelos was involved in all of them. We had been waiting for Arfield to truly get going but as well as his own performance, Rangers' use of Morelos brought the best out of Scott Arfield.

Back to those overloads. The guy Beale loves them. At Rangers, it tends to be the right-hand side more often than not. Last year the right side combination of Tavernier and Candeias was the strength of the team and it continues to be just with more help.

Particularly when Tavernier receives the ball in his own half you see how Rangers use the overload. Firstly his pal Candeias is his first forward option usually not too far in front of Tavernier. Morelos comes from deep usually down the line but more important is Heart And Hand's very own Lassana Coulibaly. Coulibaly joins the other 3 on the right-hand side in between Morelos and Candeias. That's 4 Rangers players stationed on one side of the pitch. Coulibaly's movement creates another option for Tavernier but creates space in the middle which Candeias or Morelos sprints into and receives the ball. You'd be forgiven for thinking Candeias was playing more central with the spaces he was receiving the ball in. Coulibaly wasn't near his best on Sunday but he still allowed others to flourish, mainly the sponsors Man Of The Match Daniel Candeias.

So what happens on the other side? the beauty of this current Rangers side is the depth and variance to it. Capable players all capable of playing well but in different roles. Flanagan is more protector than attacker but if the opposition are so focused on the overload down Rangers' right, Ryan Kent will have more opportunities to be 1v1 on the left-hand side. This is a common tactical method called 'Overload To Isolate'. You either use the overload to punish the team or use the chaos that that has caused to isolate the winger on the other side.

Rangers beating St Johnstone shouldn't be anything to write home about but Rangers have most definitely taken their biggest tactical step forward to date. We are most definitely seeing more and more of Michael Beale and the rest of the staff in Rangers' style of play and Sunday was the biggest proof of that to date.

For more on Rangers and the rest of the SPFL Premiership, you can follow me @Footballstewart

You can read Michael Beale's blog post mentioned above and the rest of his work here www.michaelbealecoaching.com

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published