Rangers 1-0 Livingston – tactical review

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By Jamie Currie (@Jamiecurrie89)

Rangers got back to winning ways against Livingston, with a solitary Scott Arfield goal in the second period. It wasn’t the vintage performance we all had hoped for but that could have been down to the terrible conditions but it was a win nonetheless. There were a few tactical patterns which helped shape the game; they will be discussed below.

Line-ups

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Starting line-ups and substitutes

Steven Gerrard only made one personnel change from the Kilmarnock defeat on Wednesday – Steven Davis came in for Joe Aribo. Additionally, he changed system moving away from the 4-2-3-1 and reverting back to the 4-3-2-1 which has been so successful for Rangers over the last six months – with Ianis Hagi and Ryan Kent playing as the double 10s behind Alfredo Morelos.

Andy Halliday making an impact at left-back

A feature of the game was Livingston’s willingness to give Andy Halliday the left flank to himself.

Halliday
Rangers attacking – Robbie Crawford gets attracted to Jack leaving Halliday open

The above image is from early on in the match and when Rangers are attacking it illustrates how narrow they are, thus leaving Halliday open and in all sorts of space down Rangers’ left-hand side. Hagi elects to find Jack with the pass, however, Crawford – circled in yellow – leaves much space for Halliday, which Rangers didn’t take advantage of on that occasion.

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Goldson elects to try and find Tavernier (out of the picture) when the switch to left-back is on

In the above image, Connor Goldson elects to find James Tavernier, who is making the run down the right. However, his favourite big switch is on. Livingston’s narrow shape again has left Halliday (circled) in plenty of space as both Crawford and Lawson are creating a 2vs1 against Ryan Kent.

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Halliday creates space for himself and can get up the line

Halliday this time – in the above image – is the one starting the move but Livingston again are allowing him the space to try and penetrate in the final third. They are attracted to Steven Davis, who is in the half-space, while they allow Halliday a free run to the byline before cutting out his cross.

Positional attacks vs Livi Halliday

Rangers most profitable attacks come from the left

The map above is the Rangers positional attacks map. It shows Rangers most dangerous and frequent attacks came from the left flank, and this was mainly down to Halliday and the space afforded to him due to Livingston’s narrow shape. Halliday made five progressive runs during the 90 minutes, one key pass and made 21 out of a total of 28 successful forward passes. It was a good all-round performance.

Ryan Kent had an off day – struggling to impact the game

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Kent is being doubled up on so no space to find Arfield’s forward run

As much as Livingston were more than willing to allow Andy Halliday the freedom of the left flank; they were dead set on stopping Ryan Kent from impacting the game. The above image is from the opening four minutes. With Tavernier in possession, his only option is to find Scott Arfield’s run from deep as the pass to Kent is not on; Livingston created a numerical overload 3vs2 against Tavernier and Kent and with Lawson and teammate doubling up on Kent, he cannot receive the ball and positively impact the play.

Kent 2
Lawson forces Kent backwards and then Scott Pitman helps create a numerical advantage in Livingston’s favour

Again, in the above example, Steven Lawson is pressing Kent when he is receiving the ball, not allowing him to turn and face him up, and forcing him backwards and centrally. That allows Scott Pitman to create another 2vs1 against Kent and cause a turnover of possession.

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Livingston pass Halliday’s run on, allowing them to create another doubling-up scenario against Kent

In this example, Kent is running at Lawson with Halliday ahead of him. Livingston are clever; they pass Halliday’s run onto Brown, while Crawford holds his position to create another 2vs1 against Kent and eventually win back possession.

Kent had an off day and his numbers backed that up; he made just one progressive run, he failed to complete his only attempt at a cross and his shooting wasn’t much better with only one of his three efforts finding the target.

Steven Gerrard’s changes won the match – particularly Hagi being used as a true number 10

With Kent having another tough match, Gerrard changed it by bringing on Florian Kamberi, moving Ianis Hagi into a more central role and freeing up Scott Arfield to get further forward – the switch paid off big time.

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Hagi being central helps create the space for Arfield

As you can see, Florian Kamberi played more like a wide striker than a traditional 10 or winger. Him running from out to in rather than Kent running from in to out gave Livingston problems. Also, Hagi playing right behind Morelos as a true no.10 allowed him to influence the play and his passing would help free Scott Arfield from the midfield three into more attacking areas – in this example, Livingston struggled to cope with it and left gaps for Rangers to exploit.

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Kamberi being closest to Morelos, this again helps Arfield influence the attacking third

Kamberi making the run from out to in and getting close to Morelos. Hagi this time is wider occupying Lamie and Arfield got in behind but was tackled well. This change in tactical dynamics also brought about a change in tempo, which helped Rangers’ cause.

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Hagi in the pocket; finding space to assist Arfield (out of the picture) for the winner

The goal came about by Hagi dropping into space; Morelos and Kamberi – being narrow–occupying the defence allowing Hagi to find the run by Arfield, which isn’t tracked and he found the net due to his cool finish, but additionally the movement of the forward players which had been lacking in the first half.

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Hagi central, Kamberi occupying the centre-backs, allows Arfield the space to run in behind

The last example is of the movement of the forward players again. Hagi is not picked up, due to him finding space in the 10 position – as well as Jacobs and Lawson being drawn towards the ball. Kamberi occupies two defenders and Arfield is in behind again, but he was well tackled on that occasion. However, the change in system and personnel made it much easier for Rangers to unlock the Livingston door.

Conclusion

Despite the 1-0 win, Rangers xG was 2.02, which is about correct if you factor in the Alfredo Morelos ‘goal.’ However, this wasn’t the best game to watch. It was more a victory for the management team, who made the correct changes and the right time in the game, which allowed Rangers to triumph.

Having the Kamberi option to come off the bench as the left forward paid dividends in a game that could have been a lot less comfortable than it turned out to be.

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