Rangers win against Ufa had plenty of positives, but the result has somewhat swayed the reactions. If the team had got the second goal they deserved, many of the nerves being displayed about the prospect of the second leg would be eased. That, in turn, would have led to more praise for the team for what was a hard-working display. There’s no doubt the team have played better in previous matches this season, but it’s hard to maintain that with such a heavy schedule. It’s also difficult to play well when the opposition is fully intent upon spoiling the match. With all of that in mind, here are some of the talking points from the 1-0 win.
TEN MATCHES PLAYED, ZERO MINUTES BEHIND
It’s worth remembering the way Rangers ended the campaign last season. The last 10 competitive matches saw Rangers win 3, draw 3 and lose 4. The team conceded 22 goals in those matches. This was a real indication of the sort of side Gerrard was inheriting.
It’s more than fair to say that the level of opposition in those matches was probably higher on average than what Rangers have faced in Gerrard’s first 10 competitive games. I don’t think it’s by a huge amount though. To have changed things in such a way that only 4 goals have been conceded so far is outstanding. Added to that is the fact that Rangers haven’t spent a single minute of a match where they’re losing this season.
After 10 games, with a young and very new squad, that statistic shows just what Gerrard is getting from the players so far. There are challenges to come, and we’ll see just how the team reacts when they are behind in a match. Until then, it’s a record they can be very proud of.
BREAKING DOWN THE LOW BLOCK
Teams coming to Ibrox and having everyone behind the ball to keep the score down is nothing new. Every season, matches where the team haven’t been at their best but have been able to grind out a win are numerous. In the last couple of seasons that hasn’t been achieved as often as required, though.
One of the only criticisms some Rangers fans have of the team right now is a lack of goals. It’s now been 14 goals scored in 10 matches. When you consider that 2 of those matches saw the team play with 10 men for long spells, and others have been away games in Europe where the team is more defensive, it’s not too bad. There will need to be an improvement there as the season progresses, in fairness.
One thing that is working well for us is set pieces. Goals resulting from free kicks and corners have made up a number of those scored so far. If teams are set upon denying space to break them down and breaking up play with fouls, that’s going to be key over the course of the season.
Fans often want a creative midfielder or player who can play a “killer pass” against that sort of system. It’s not as effective as it used to be. Teams are much better tactically in defence on average now than they would have been 10 or 15 years ago. Rangers are looking to be a real threat at set pieces and to force teams into mistakes in dangerous areas. That approach may just be the best way to beat this sort of tactic as things stand.
Gerrard described Ejaria as outstanding last night. He had a match where he controlled the midfield, probed often with passes and dribbling, and won a number of tackles. In the eyes of the fans, though, he seems to be somewhat divisive.
Ejaria has a style of play that can be over-appreciated or under-appreciated in equal measure. What some see as composure others think is slowing the game down. His attempts to break teams down which don’t work are either unlucky, or him being too loose in possession. Depending upon your point of view, the same action can be positive or negative. It’s just one of those beautiful dichotomies that exist among football supporters.
It’s worth remembering that Ejaria had made 19 appearances at senior level before signing on loan for Rangers. He played 11 matches last season for Sunderland. He’s only 20 years old and very much learning the game in terms of being a first team player. In the space of a month, he’s made 10 appearances for Rangers and played in far higher level matches than ever before. It’s very much a throw in the deep end.
We should expect inconsistency and rough edges to his game. I’m of the opinion his overall level has been good so far, and he offers loads to the team. I suspect he’ll be a subject of debate among fans as the season progresses, though.
What did you take from the game last night? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts.