Celtic 0-2 Rangers: Match Analysis

By Jamie Currie
 October 20, 2020

Rangers continued their good start to the league campaign by swatting aside Neil Lennon's Celtic side by a 2-0 scoreline. Goals in either half from Connor Goldson sealed Rangers' easiest victory of the season so far.

During this analysis I will look at some of the themes and tactical patterns of play that enabled Rangers to win.

Line-ups

Celtic vs Rangers Lineups

Rangers continued with their 4-3-2-1 medium block Europa League tactic in this match, and while Lennon changed to a back three last December to combat this, his analysts must have deleted the footage of Rangers destroying Motherwell 5-1 when they were playing with a back three. Because despite having the majority of the possession, they did nothing at all and make the afternoon as comfortable as Rangers wanted it to be.

Rangers' flat, narrow shape restricted Celtic in attack

Rangers and Steven Gerrard's use of a medium block and overloading the middle of the park gave them the foothold and sufficient control to dictate the game, even though the host had most of the possession 56.5% to 43.5%. However, the way Rangers shaped up when out of possession gave them a solid base and they were able to stop Celtic having a single shot on target during the full 90 minutes.

Tactical Graphic

Early on the tone was set. Rangers took the lead and set to Celtic "show us what you've got." Young Welsh is in possession but he has to go square due to Rangers overloading Scott Brown. Callum McGregor had to go wide because Laxalt is high and wide and the move broke down in the end.

Tactical Graphic

Similarly, in the above, overloads on the ball side. Kent pressing means Welsh has to go square when he would have wanted to go down the line.

He can't Kamara and Barisic have closed off the avenue and further to that Davis joins in to overload McGregor meaning he is virtually out of the play. Brown is similar; he cannot get involved because Arfield and Jack and ready to set a pressing trap where if he gets the ball they have a numerical advantage.

Tactical Graphic

The last example is different. Ajer's pass breaks the first line. But this time Goldson can go and engage Elyounoussi because he is taking the ball with his back to goal allowing Davis to join in and dispossess the attacker. It was good shape play from Rangers but Celtic's movement was so poor that Rangers didn't have to do anything to difficult to regain the ball. And they break and win the free-kick which they score from due to Elyounoussi's slack pass.

Joy was found down the sides - using the half-spaces well

Rangers got their attacking rewards exploiting the half-spaces between the wide centre-backs and the wing-backs. They did it over and over again, and it helped them pick Celtic's defence apart.

Tactical Graphic

The above image shows Rangers exploiting the half-spaces and score from it. The passage of play originally came from a corner, with Glen Kamara taking part in the play around the box but when Morelos gets the ball, he attracts three players, who are ball watching. Diego Laxalt being caught ball-watching and Oliver Ntcham day dream and Scott Arfield's intelligence of run creates the second goal of the day.

Tactical Graphic

In the above image, Tavernier is able to stick to his right-back berth and pull Laxalt towards Goldson; this allows Kent to take up the half-space between McGregor and Laxalt, allowing Goldson to knock the ball in behind to get Kent one on one with Ajer. He managed to beat him and cut inside but his shot was soft. However, the Rangers build-up was far too easy in terms of them being able to get in behind and isolate defenders.

Rangers did what Celtic couldn't and played on the break with pace

It's almost as if Celtic didn't have a clue how Rangers would play - time and time again, they managed to catch Celtic on the transition and Celtic simply were all over the place defensively.

Tactical Graphic

In the above image Barisic has no right to win the ball, but he is safe in the knowledge that he can go and challenge for it because he has Kamara covering his position at left-back. Additionally when Rangers counter, they have Davis, Arfield and Jack behind the ball, allowing Kent, Morelos and Barisic to lead to charge and exploit the space in behind Celtic's shapeless midfield.

Tactical Graphic

The above example is Barker winning the ball and feeding Kent in the half-space; but look at the shape of Celtic's line: Ajer is against Barker, Welsh is trying to play offside and Duffy is miles out of picture. One pass and Kent was in and if it wasn't for Ajer's last-ditch tackle, it would have been another goalscoring opportunity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the match is nothing more than three points. However, we have two sides. One is well-coached and the players trust the process; whereas Celtic don't seem to know what the process is. Gerrard and Michael Beale have Lennon's number and that is why the victory for Rangers was so comfortable. 11 league matches play; 9 wins and two draws. Rangers just have to keep winning the games they should be winning, but I don't imagine any of the coaching staff or the players would have expected this match to be so comfortable.

Jamie Currie (@jamiecurrie89)

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