Rangers started their UEFA Europa League Group Stage campaign with a 1-0 victory over Eredivise side Feyenoord at Ibrox.
Rangers have yet to be behind in nine games in Europe this season and have not been defeated. Furthermore, If you had to give an analysis of Steven Gerrard’s home European record, you’d have to be impressed as he’s yet to taste defeat at Ibrox in 12 matches.
Sheyi Ojo’s first-half strike gave Rangers the victory.
In this tactical analysis, we will take a look at how Rangers managed to execute their game plan and used their tactics to get the better of Jaap Stam’s Feyenoord outfit.
Jaap Stam started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Leroy Fer and Renato Tapia in front of his back four. Steven Berghuis was on the right and Sam Larsson started on the left.
Steven Gerrard made some changes from the weekend’s win over Livingston; Borna Barišić and Filip Helander came into defence for Andy Halliday and Niko Katić, while Ryan Kent dropped out for Glen Kamara with Scott Arfield moving forward.
Rangers’ high press caused Feyenoord all sorts of problems
Despite Feyenoord having 63.36% of possession, their expected goals were pretty low: 0.87 compared to Rangers’ 2.5.
Those expected goals numbers were aided by Rangers’ pressing, which helped create a number of good goalscoring opportunities.
Rangers’ first half consisted of the high press. In the above image, you can see 2:43 on the clock and Feyenoord are trying to patiently build from the back. Despite having the ball, Rangers’ press means they have a 4-vs-2 situation. The player on the ball can’t go inside because Ryan Jack has the midfielder suffocated and they can’t go down the line either because the same issue has occurred. This passage of play results in them going long to be the press but ultimately giving up possession.
Feyenoord’s sitting midfielders would often drop to the 18-yard box to pick up the ball and try and start the play. This was an obvious tactical decision on Stam’s part. However, it played into Gerrard’s tactical plan. In the instance above, Rangers’ press is evident. Leroy Fer is in trouble; he has Jack pressing him and as he prepares to pass to Ridgeciano Haps, he is being pressed by Arfield, which in turn leads to Feyenoord losing possession and losing the opening goal.
Feyenoord do manage to get out and Haps does well. However, Davis’ pressure on the ball forces a loose pass across the box.
In the image above, Glen Kamara is able to win the 50-50. Borna Barišić (out of the picture) beats Rick Karsdorp in another 50-50, while Sheyi Ojo uses the greyed out space very well. He drops into a pocket where the central defender is caught in two minds whether to follow him or hold his position. In the end, he holds his position giving Ojo acres of space to unleash an unstoppable shot which wins the three points for Rangers.
Rangers’ second-half approach/ Steven Berghuis
After Rangers’ high press in the first half, they adopted a low block in the second 45. It was clear to see how Gerrard’s tactics changed. Feyenoord’s passing stats showed how they struggled to break down the low block. They played 85 backward passes during the match and 287 lateral passes. It illustrates how well Rangers kept their shape and cut off the attacking passing lanes. In the image above, this is exactly what takes place.
We can see above, Renato Tapia has the ball on the half-way line as he tries to build up the play. However, three of his passing lanes are blocked off due to Rangers being compact; this leads to Rangers winning the ball because the areas that Feyenoord are trying to play through are overloaded with numbers.
Above, Rangers again are deep. Berghuis, who is on the ball has one pass on – wide to Karsdorp, which leads to nothing, but Berghuis having to come so deep was a compliment to how well Rangers’ shape nullified him on the night, even though the Dutch international showed glimpses of his class. He still managed four passes which led to shots despite being well-marshalled.
In the above image, Feyenoord are on the attack again. However, Glen Kamara has made sure Berghuis cannot have a major say in the move. Both strikers are marked, while Arfield puts pressure on the ball. Feyenoord did try to keep the tempo up, but Rangers’ discipline and hunger to hold on to the lead were too strong for Feyenoord to break and find a way back into the game.
Alfredo Morelos – a constant menace
He made three key passes, five progressive runs and won 16 total duels. And he gave Edgar lé a torrid night.
Morelos was everything his Colombian counterpart for Feyenoord wasn’t. He was a focal point and bullied the Feyenoord defence. In the above image, he is chasing a lost cause but still manages to get ahead of the defenders and win his side possession. He held it up and allowed Arfield to join the attack, creating a good attacking situation which wasn’t maximised.
The above images come from the same move. Morelos rolling Edgar lé. Morelos would often drift wide, while dragging Edgar lé into a position where he was uncomfortable. This would allow Scott Arfield and Ojo to move into central areas and take advantage of the space vacated by Edgar lé, as Fer and Tapia didn’t recognise the gap so they left it open and their defence vulnerable to not only Ojo and Arfield but the Rangers midfield runners.
In conclusion, Rangers were magnificent on both sides of the ball, and showed the tactical maturity to be able to carry out two different tactical set-ups in the one fixture. They will have to build on this in the other five fixtures in the group. However, Feyenoord couldn’t break them down and didn’t seem to have any plan B to aid their cause.
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