Rangers fell to a 2-1 loss against Young Boys at the Stade de Suisse in Bern. Despite taking the lead through Alfredo Morelos, they contrived to lose the game after second-half goals from Roger Assalé and Christian Fassnacht. The result leaves each team with three points in Group G of the UEFA Europa League after matchday two and after Feyenoord defeated Porto 2-0 in Rotterdam.

In the end, despite having 51% possession and four shots on target – the same as the hosts – Rangers will look at this match as a missed opportunity, especially as they should have had a penalty in the second period.

This tactical analysis will explore the main tactics from the match and examine how Young Boys were able to get the win over Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side.


UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics

Young Boys welcomed Roger Assalé back into the side at the expense of the injured Guillaume Hoarau. That was the only change from their weekend 3-2 victory over Sion. It came as no surprise that Gerardo Seoane went with his favoured 4-4-2 formation, especially with his side being unbeaten at home in a year.

Rangers made two changes. Filip Helander replaced Niko Katić in defence, while Glen Kamara came in to replace Greg Stewart with Scott Arfield moving to a more advanced role in Gerrard’s 4-3-2-1 shape.

Rangers’ shape and pressing in the early stages – Young Boys’ frustrations

Rangers started with the medium block during the defensive phase of their play; this is similar tactics to those used in the win over FC Midtjylland in the qualifying round first leg.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics
Ryan Jack presses the ball forcing Young Boys to go back to the keeper to restart their attack

In the image above, Michel Aebischer in possession for Young Boys is being pressed by Ryan Jack, which means the only option he has is to go back to the goalkeeper for the home side to restart their attack. But as you can see, the front three are pressed right up against Rangers’ backline.

However, this isn’t helping Young Boys due to their lack of movement of the forward players. Furthermore, Rangers’ midfield shape and Jack’s pressing negates the chance to give the ball to Gaudino, who had to come inside to get involved, but he’s taken out the game in this instance by Steven Davis.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers - tactical analysis tactics
Rangers’ wide triangle along with Davis’ pressing negates a Young Boys attacking opportunity

In this instance, it’s even earlier in the game. Fabian Lustenberger (circled) is on the ball trying to start an attack. Again, Young Boys look to use their wide-left options. But Garcia cannot play the ball down the line to Gaudino because he’s caught in Rangers’ defensive triangle, which takes him out of the game. Instead, his only option is to feed the ball back inside to Lustenberger but as Davis presses him he has to take a touch and go back to the goalkeeper. This allows Rangers to get back into their shape.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers - tactical analysis tactics
Young Boys find a gap but have to go back out and wide due to Rangers’ tight lines.

The above image was one of the few times Young Boys found gaps centrally. The ball gets worked wide and popped inside to the yellow area but due to the fact Sheyi Ojo goes and presses the wide player and doubles up with Borna Barišić, Young Boys have to start again and fail to use the opportunity to their advantage.

The phase of play ends with Scott Arfield winning the ball back in the right-back area for Rangers. It was a major plus point in Rangers’ tactics; the way they managed to restrict the home side due to their ability to defend in the medium block was impressive in the first period.

Davis and Jack dropping into half-spaces during build-up play – leads to Rangers’ goal

A feature of Rangers’ play, particularly in the build-up phase was one of the midfielders – either Ryan Jack, Steven Davis or Glen Kamara, dropping into the half-space close to their centre-back, which allowed them to try and create goalscoring chances, but more often than not the final pass would be their downfall.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics
Jack and Kamara drop into the half-space, allowing the Rangers full-backs to push high

In the above image, Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara are deep to allow the full-backs to get high. This forces both of Young Boys’ wide men to have to track back towards their own goal and with Kamara and Jack dropping in it helps remove the two strikers’ press and allows Rangers to gain territorial advantage. On this occasion, Jack’s pass is cut out by Lustenberger, who shuffles across to close off the passing lane through to Alfredo Morelos.

The midfielders dropping into the half-space was a feature of Rangers’ goal. In the first phase of the goal it was Ryan Jack. However, Filip Helander is able to take Assalé out of the game with a pass to the left, meaning Young Boys have their two strikers becoming ineffective.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics
Jack in the right-back area again.
UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics
Davis in the half-space makes attacking space for Barišić

The second phase shows how Davis dropping into that half-space is effective for Rangers’ attacking play. He’s able to draw Fassnacht to press while leaving Barišić free. This gives Barišić the time and space to set himself before playing the ball in behind in the image below.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics
Barišić’s pass kills the Young Boys high line

As you can see, Barišić exploits the high line with Janko being so high. Frederik Hillesborg Sørensen should be deeper rather than be positioned next to Lustenberger. They are caught out as a result of the Dane’s poor positional play. It’s a poor press from Young Boys’ but the Rangers midfielders playing in the half-spaces allowing the full-backs to get higher, and also allowing Arfield on this occasion to come in narrower, drew Young Boys out of their shape.

Young Boys’ attacking intent in the second period –  creating numerical advantages forcing Rangers errors.

With Rangers having the better of the first half, Young Boys had to step it up attacking-wise in the second. And they managed to win the game by forcing Rangers into making individual errors.

In the lead-up to the first goal, however. Young Boys went man-for-man when attacking Rangers’ backline to more of a 4-2-4 shape.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics
Young boys create a numerical advantage against Tavernier and Jack

In the image above you can see Garcia who has the ball as Tavernier comes out to engage. However, with Scott Arfield not dropping into the square area, it leaves both Tavernier and Ryan Jack outnumbered – 3vs2. And with the other attacking players pushed so high up against Rangers backline it causes them problems in the next phase.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics
Young Boys create another numerical advantage when pressing

This pressing continues from Garcia and Jean-Pierre Nsame closes the passing lane to Goldson – eliminating him from the game. Ryan Jack also is out of the game due to Gaudino joining in with the press. Tavernier has one option: kick it out for a throw and reset, but he tried to find Goldson, who was already out of the game. It led to an equaliser but, as much as it was poor defending, Young Boys did well to create the advantages and press to cause Tavernier to make the error.

The winning goal came from Young Boys winning a second ball – and yes, they created another 2vs1 situation against a Rangers defensive line that was far from perfect.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Young Boys vs Rangers -tactical analysis tactics
Young Boys’ numbers help capitalise on Rangers errors

After Helander had won the first header, the defensive line is all over the place for Rangers. Connor Goldson could have left his man shuffled over and left Helander to pick up his man so that he could help Tavernier. Regardless of that, James Tavernier again makes a silly error. He’s already on the back foot.

He’s got no time to reposition himself, so he has Fassnacht in behind him and the additional attacker in his eye line, which may have caused him to have a lapse in concentration while attempting to clear the ball. However, Young Boys’ aggressive pressing reaped the full rewards as Fassnacht ran in behind to score the winner.


To conclude, this analysis shows that it was a bad night for Rangers. They succumbed to defeat in Bern after shooting themselves in the foot twice – and allowing Young Boys to force two errors. Rangers were very comfortable without being spectacular in the game and used the medium block effectively in the first half.

In short, Rangers should have been able to hold out and win the match. For Young Boys, they must feel like all their Christmases have come at once. Without making any serious headway during the 90 minutes, two instances of the numbers game, which forced Rangers errors has won them the points.

Artwork by @chapulana

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