Another trip to Hampden for Rangers and another occasion where the fans were outstanding in their support and the team failed to deliver. On the day, it was a dominant Rangers performance. However, with that dominance came very little quality. Unfortunately, Lewis Ferguson’s header was enough to see Aberdeen progress to the final.
A few of the talking points from the match will be discussed below.
Lack of tempo and urgency
In this match, apart from 10 minutes either side of half-time and the 10 minutes before the end, there was no urgency or tempo. It took Connor Goldson, the centre-back, to be the one to take any kind of responsibility and try to make things happen. That is unacceptable. It seems like when Rangers play away from Ibrox their high tempo and the aggressive nature goes into hiding.
Aberdeen knew how to play Rangers on the day, just like Spartak and Hamilton. Sit deep, and Rangers will slow the game down and play you the way you want to be played. That’s exactly what happened and McInnes for all his faults saw this one coming a mile off. This particular pattern has now been evident for the third game in succession. It’s a massive, massive issue that needs to be fixed.
Team selection and poor use of substitutions
Following on from the last point, the midfield issue was prominent. You could see why Gerrard would go with such a conservative midfield in Europe. However, there was no need for Lassana Coulibaly and Ryan Jack in this match. This was a game where Rangers were on the front foot looking for the breakthrough after dominating possession. Despite this, they had nothing from the midfield area in reality.
Furthermore, Ovie Ejaria, Jack and Coulibaly all looked to play the simple pass. Not once did any of them look interested in lifting the tempo of the game and taking it to Aberdeen. Not only did they seem unwilling to lift the tempo, none of them were actively looking to break rank from the middle and get forward in support of Sadiq. Yes, you could balance that out by saying it’s not their game to do that. Unfortunately, that then lies with the manager for getting the balance of the midfield totally wrong.
Late reactions from Gerrard
In addition to the lack of midfield balance, you now have this concept where it paints Gerrard as a reactive manager. The team needed changes from the 55th minute, in my opinion. However, he waited until Aberdeen scored, threw on Scott Arfield and Glenn Middleton to try and save the game. By then it was way too late and those subs were never going to work at that point in the match.
Maybe that’s a new manager issue with regards to the subs. Perhaps he’s worried that if he makes a sub it will go wrong. Hopefully, he becomes better at reading a game in that regard. With him playing at such a high level, this particular flaw is his managerial makeup is very surprising and ultimately worrying.
Sadiq surprise inclusion
We have to move on to the last issue regarding team selection and it has to be addressed. The mystery of Umar Sadiq and his inclusion. I don’t think Sadiq covered himself in glory nor do I think he will play for Rangers again. However, again, it’s down to Steven Gerrard. He spoke in his pre-match press conference about this tactical plan he had, except it wasn’t a tactical plan at all.
By the way he was speaking, you would have thought he may go with a strikerless system. Instead he threw Sadiq in, who admittedly was poor on the day and he was given no game time in the run-up to this fixture. For me, that is bad management. The players of course didn’t turn up on the day, but from a management point of view, it was a monumental failure.
Have Rangers gone ‘Spursy’ where Hampden is concerned?
Five semi-final defeats in a row. It seems there is a club mentality issue when these type of games crop up: not one goal in a semi-final since the 2-2 draw with Celtic. Although these players may have only lost one, it feels that no matter which players or manager you put into this situation, Rangers will lose games at Hampden. I looked for a shift of mentality going into this game. The same mentality issues are still there and it’s going to take one massive effort to put it right.