Ryan Jack arrived at Rangers as a consistent, ball-winning, water carrying defensive midfielder. Progressively over the last season and most notably, during pre-season, he has shown an aggression to support the attack. Dare I say it, he’s starting to play in his manager’s mould.
Jack seemed to be the most likely to miss out on a starting place in the Rangers midfield this coming year until he revealed his new dynamism. Gerrard’s coaching appears to be all over the changes in Jack’s game. In his second player analysis, I’ll look at Jack’s development and what changes he has made to his game in Rangers’ attempt to remove Celtic from the summit of Scottish football.
Against St Joseph’s, Jack covered every proverbial blade of grass. Not only was he heavily involved in turning over possession but his mindset has changed. He is now proactive in getting into attacking areas.
In his first season and most of last year, Jack would have recycled this ball rather than taking on the onus to attack himself. He drives at the defence and keeps his shot on target. Goals from outside the box is an area Rangers needs to improve.
With the score at 0-0, Jack drifts into the box and finds himself unmarked at the back post. James Tavernier plays the ball in, Jack gets a shot on target with the keeper making a great save. Defoe scores from the follow up but there is a dubious offside decision and the goal is disallowed. This is a position we have never seen Jack in, yet already this season he is finding himself in this area. Because of his deeper start position, he isn’t getting picked up.
Opening goal v St Joseph’s
The following images show Jack’s progression into an all round midfielder instead of one who sits and protects the back four. He starts off already ahead of the ball. This in its self shows a transformation of attitude and intent.
Jack then stays in the space between St Joseph’s two defensive lines. Rather than running towards the goal and attacking the box, he holds his position – ‘sometimes standing still is the best run to make’.
As Borna Barisić looks up, Jack delays his run and as everyone else runs towards the goal, Jack is left in space. He then attacks the ball and volleys into the right hand corner. Great movement from someone who is considered to be limited.
Against St Joseph’s, Jack had three clear attempts on goal. All on target. He was integral to playing at a high tempo and turning the ball over in their half. Jack, as demonstrated, also showed how much his movement has improved being involved in several key moments.
Confirmation v Progrès
In the first leg at Ibrox v Progrès Niederkorn, Jack further enhanced his growing reputation as a box-to-box midfielder. He again took up positions where he was able to get a shot on target. In the closing stages, he forced an excellent save when his shot looked destined for the bottom corner. It’s evident that he doesn’t blast shots and he has been coached into placing them.
This passage of play was as good as we have seen from Rangers so far. It ends with Alfredo getting a shot off and nearly scoring but he should’ve left it for Jack. It’s fair to say Jack let him know about it too!
Jack picks the ball up wide and instead of looking for an easy pass, he drives forward. Another development to his game, he isn’t always looking for a safe pass, he is now keen to break lines of defence. As he drives forward Joe Aribo makes a diagonal run and takes the ball off Jack.
Jack continues his run behind Aribo and into space, nobody follows him. As Aribo cuts the ball back, Jack attacks the penalty spot area in a great position to run onto the ball with nobody in front of him. However, Morelos, with his back to goal, doesn’t spot the run of Jack and shoots on the turn when he would’ve been better served to dummy the ball.
You can see why Jack was raging with Morelos, he has a clear shot at goal from close range. In fairness, if Morelos hits the target it’s a goal because the keeper got nowhere near it and it would’ve been some finish.
Jack has now started to drive forward with the ball after he wins possession. Previously he would be content with playing a simple pass. On more than one occasion he wins the ball then immediately sets up an attack. The phase of play leading to Rangers second goal starts with Jack winning the ball near the halfway line and playing Scott Arfield in 1 v 1. I would love to see a comparison between Jack’s possession and creativity statistics for last season compared to his first five this year, especially if he maintains this form.
Jack is denied a goal when Jermain Defoe is judged to have drifted offside in the build-up of this next passage. It begins, again, with Jack driving at the defence instead of taking the easy option. Not only does he start the move but he follows up and expertly passes the ball into the net past the keeper.
Jack has options to pass centrally to Aribo or wide to James Tavernier. Instead, he drives at the defence into the channel, drawing out a defender.
Jack then plays the ball into Defoe’s feet who then backheels into the onrushing Jack’s path to calmly finish into the far corner. Another great passing move in this match involving Jack that should’ve ended in a goal.
If Jack continues to show his increased attacking threat it will be hard to dislodge him from the starting XI. Not only is he more involved in attacks but he is still turning over possession as well as anybody in the Rangers team. The good thing with Jack is he can offer protection to the back four and allows Gerrard to change shape within a game without making any substitutes.
Jack has risen to the challenge set to him by Gerrard, he won’t play every game but then I doubt any of the midfielders will. I’d expect Jack to be playing in all the bigger games given his early-season form and how much Gerrard relies on him. He’ll be in the starting XI v Kilmarnock on day one. From water carrier to driving force and goal scorer, the transformation of Ryan Jack isn’t yet complete but the early signs are good. If Gerrard trusts him, maybe it’s about time the Rangers support did too?
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