Sunday’s 3-0 win against St Mirren continued to highlight two key areas of improvement within the Rangers team. Decision making in the final third and a central midfielder with the ability to progress the ball forward.
It’s important to state at this point that a creative passer and a good passer are not the same thing. Creative passers will look to take risks on the ball and break the defensive line whilst a good passer may simply look to retain the ball without any inclination to attack. It’s why passes & pass completion percentages in themselves are too vague as metrics to really get an understanding of what a player is doing with the ball.
For the purposes of this analysis, possession is calculated as the share of passes that each team had in a game, as a proportion of the total.
With this in mind, the below bar chart displays Rangers total passes in the SPFL last season (19/20) and identifies which player had the most amount of possession as a percentage.
Anyone who watched Rangers play last year will not be stunned to see the top 3 players in terms of possession being Connor Goldson, Ryan Jack & Steven Davis. In reality, this is probably pretty normal – certainly in Jack & Davis’ case – as most of the time, teams will concede possession to Rangers and the ball will be predominantly in the midfield zone.
This analysis is more interested in what the outcome of that possession was in terms of goals & assists, which you would assume naturally weights towards the more offensive minded players in the team.
In the league last season, Florian Kamberi (2 G+A) and Greg Stewart (5 G+A) were Rangers top performers per 90 minutes with and respectively. Whilst p90 metrics can remove bias for players who have played more games than others, a minimum number of minutes should still be factored into provide a more accurate view.
Of players who played more than 500 SPFL minutes for Rangers last season, there is no surprise to see Morelos & Defoe leading the way in terms of goals + assists. The fact that Sheyi Ojo makes the top five and last assisted in October possibly tells its own story about the need for more output from all areas of the team.
Rangers averaged 66% possession in the league last season which is significant, especially compared to the creative output above. If we start to think about possession and output together, we can quantify how creative each player is with their passing.
The players on the bottom right would be classed as high output, low volume. Jermaine Defoe is Rangers most efficient player, needing only 15 passes per goal and assist. Similarly, you can see how little Morelos is actually on the ball, with only 5% of the teams total possession and 44 passes per goal or assist.
Steven Davis could be classed as high usage, low output given he requires a high number of passes before a goal or assist.
With 9 goals and assists and 9% of the teams overall possession, James Tavernier would fall into the high usage, high output category (in comparative terms). As would Joe Aribo, who only needs 118 passes per goal and assist.
The key for Rangers this season would be to first of all ensure that several players get more than 14 league goals & assists but you’ll note from the above scatter graph that none of Rangers attacking midfielders or forwards have a high percentage of possession.
This means their time on the ball is limited and could have a direct impact on their output. When the attack have limited time on the ball, this is usually because the rest of the team struggle to find them with their passes.
Steven Davis & Ryan Jack rank very highly in terms of possession but not so highly on output. If Rangers can find a way to reduce the amount of time centre backs and defensive midfielders spend in possession – or increase their effectiveness on the ball – this could be key to increasing the teams overall output.