Scottish Premiership 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Rangers vs Celtic

Rangers recorded their second derby win of the season as they comfortably beat Celtic 2-0 at an Ibrox bathed in sunshine. Goals in each half from James Tavernier and Scott Arfield sealed the win for Steven Gerrard‘s men. Frankly, it was comfortable for the home side despite Celtic winning the possession battle (57% to Rangers’ 43%). However, what was even more galling was that Neil Lennon‘s side could only muster three shots on goal with only one on target compared with 11 shots for Rangers with five of them being on target.

It was a fully deserved win for Rangers on the day and plenty of talking points arose from the match that are going to be discussed at greater length.

Lineups

Rangers Celtic Scottish Premiership tactical analysis Statistical analysis

Rangers’ shape and their pressing plan worked very well


Rangers Celtic Scottish Premiership Tactical analysis statistical analysis
Rangers’ pressing was a massive feature of their victory over Celtic in December and was no different in this fixture. The above image shows how Rangers adopted the high press right from the kick-off. The front three being narrow killed any chance of Celtic playing out from the back. Instead, the ball is played out wide left for Jonny Hayes, who goes long to Odsonne Édouard.

Rangers Celtic Scottish Premiership Tactical analysis statistical analysis

As Rangers got themselves in front through Tavernier’s free-kick, the pressing became more structured and controlled from the high press right at the beginning of the game. In this instance, Hayes is on the ball but, as highlighted, his options are limited. Rangers are dropping off into a compact defensive structure. Their 2-vs-1 situations against Mikey Johnston and Tom Rogić mean that Celtic don’t have an easy pass on to build from back to front through the thirds; they have to go more direct and that made it much easier for Rangers to recover possession.

Davis and Kamara’s midfield masterclass


Rangers Celtic Scottish Premiership Tactical analysis Statistical analysis
In addition to the controlled pressing from Steven Gerrard‘s side, the way they dominated the midfield area both in and out of possession gave them a solid platform to go on and win the match.

The above image illustrates Rangers’ Christmas tree shape perfectly. It also gives us the information that Davis and Kamara played 21 passes between each other, which is higher than any of Celtic’s midfielders managed on the day. Davis was splendid, he started everything in an attacking sense and he stopped Tom Rogić hurting Rangers when Rangers were out of possession. With Davis, it was never about the physical battle, he won his battle with Rogić by the use of his superb football brain and his positional sense. Furthermore, he was always calm on the ball and embodied the whole Rangers performance.

Davis could be described as a veteran of these fixtures. Glen Kamara, on the other hand, is a relative rookie and he was also outstanding. The Finn’s stats were impressive. He notched up a pass completion percentage of 96%, completing 44 of 46 passes. However, what the stats don’t show is the number of times he dropped the shoulder and drifted past his opponent; he dropped it that many times, it’s probably still on the Ibrox turf. And, he rounded off his fantastic individual display with an assist for Scott Arfield’s goal.

Celtic are stuck between two styles of play

As good as Rangers were, and they were good, Celtic were terrible. This match gives a clear indication of where Celtic are tactically at the moment. They are stuck between Rodgers’ philosophy (pass through the thirds) and Lennon’s more direct approach. Lennon changed shape three times in this fixture and he had no answer to Rangers’ two types of press. The only answer he had was to go long, which gifted Rangers possession back due to the dominance of Goldson and Katić against Édouard. They struggled for patterns of play all day and looked like a team who were a bit miffed and unsure of themselves. They certainly didn’t look like a side who had won the league the previous week.

It wasn’t an easy afternoon for the Frenchman 7/23 duels (30%) and only one out of three aerial duels (33%). To compound matters, he gave the ball away 13 times in Celtic’s attacking third.

In addition to Édouard being Celtic’s danger man, Tom Rogic is usually someone Celtic can count on for these occasions, but as mentioned before, Steven Davis snuffed him out. He didn’t get any shots on goal. He had worse numbers than Édouard in terms of duels: he won five from 18 duels (28%) and gave the ball away six times, including once in his own half. To be honest, he was a passenger and was completely ineffective on both sides of the ball.

It’s not only those two players but for a team whose wage bill is higher than that of Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, to have one shot on target in 90 minutes is embarrassing.

Lennon has to figure it out for next season – if he remains in charge

In terms of the style of play, Lennon has tried to mesh his own style and Rodgers’ style together. While he won the league and beat Rangers at Parkhead in March, this performance from his side will have done little to enhance his chances of getting the job. Going forward, he needs to come up with a more refined tactical plan and move away from Rodgers’ style if he is to take this team forward into next season.

In truth, Celtic looked like they were underprepared and overwhelmed. In addition, they seemed to be unable to comprehend what their manager was asking of them individually and collectively. However, when the manager changed the shape three times in order to try and combat Rangers’ 4-3-2-1, you can see why the players were confused.

The Rangers fans played a big part

The ticket allocation has been a big talking point this season. It’s fair to say that the squabble has worked in Rangers’ favour. Celtic had the better of the first match and the first half in March, but overall, Rangers have been the better side for two-and-a-half matches. No longer do Celtic have a full stand at Ibrox and it seems to be affecting them mentally. If they lose the next fixture at Ibrox, it will quickly become a major talking point. On the other hand, a full Ibrox is helping Rangers, and playing at Parkhead doesn’t appear to affect them as much as playing at Ibrox affects Celtic.


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