Livingston 0-0 Rangers: Match Analysis

By Jamie Currie
 August 18, 2020

Livingston v Rangers Match Analysis

Rangers’ 100 percent record was ended on Sunday as the Light Blues could only muster a lacklustre performance and a 0-0 scoreline against a well-organised Livingston side.

It was a poor afternoon for Steven Gerrard and his men. That is illustrated by the stats: 23 shots for Rangers during the 90 minutes and just two on target. In fact, the best two opportunities came from a Borna Barisic free-kick and a Brandon Barker close-range effort. 

Livingston v Rangers Match Analysis by Jamie Currie

The performance raised some issues and a potential feeling of de ja vu.

During this analysis, I am going to take a look at some issues that faced Rangers at the Toni Macaroni Area — and how Rangers potentially overcome those issues in future matches, looking at it from a statistical and tactical viewpoint.

Line-ups

Starting XIs and subs used for both teams
Starting XIs and subs used for both teams

Steven Gerrard moved away from 4-2-3-1 in this match — the system that has been so successful in the last two matches helping Rangers beat St Mirren and St Johnstone’s low blocks at Ibrox. 4-3-3 was the preferred shape and it did not work in this fixture.

The midfield two vs Livingston’s shape

Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara are the players tasked with anchoring the midfield while the front four and the full-backs are tasked to break down these teams. So it comes as no surprise that both players had the most touches of any Rangers players: Kamara —115 and Jack 151. They both played two key passes in the match but the stats can sometimes tell you one thing and your eyes can tell you a completely different story

Jack goes into Morelos; if he would have drove forward he could have created better 

Jack goes into Morelos; if he would have drove forward he could have created better
Jack goes into Morelos; if he would have drove forward he could have created better 

It’s great having so much control and have 78.5% of possession but it’s what you do with it that counts. Two shots on target all afternoon is poor. However, when you have two sitting players against a low block, you are looking for one of your sitting players to drive from deep and commit the Livingston press. 

The above example shows Jason Holt engaging Jack. Ideally, you are looking for Jack to commit him, take him on, and then entice Bartley into the blue square, allowing Jack to advance and instead of Alfredo Morelos coming deep, he can get in between the lines and it would free him and Scott Arfield up to link up in that area of the field.

Kamara and Jack far too deep starting a move

Kamara and Jack far too deep starting a move
Kamara and Jack far too deep starting a move

In the above example Kamara and Jack are side-by-side; Kamara should be further forward here and you could argue Jack should be too allowing Filip Helander to bring the ball out of defence. But they are faced with a narrow midfield four so in the first phase look to have no passes on to break the line.

Further on in the same move, Jack and Kamara are side-by-side and being pressed by Marvin Bartley
Further on in the same move, Jack and Kamara are side-by-side and being pressed by Marvin Bartley

The move has progressed and both midfielders are in line with each other. As the above image shows, Bartley presses Kamara, meaning there is now way he can bring Ryan Kent into play to enable him to play in behind the Livingston midfield. Livingston are so disciplined and organised that the only way for Rangers to progress the ball is out to the left in the shape of Borna Barisic.

Jack plays the safe pass instead of engaging Bartley to make an angle to find Hagi between the lines
Jack plays the safe pass instead of engaging Bartley to make an angle to find Hagi between the lines

The final example is of Jack and Marvin Bartley once more. Bartley again goes to engage Jack and again you are looking for Jack to take a chance; take Bartley on, remove him from the next phase of play and get Hagi on the turn and facing the defenders, as well as allowing Morelos to advance higher up the pitch towards the goal. 

This aspect of Jack’s game on the day was sorely lacking. Yes, the front four didn’t play well at all, but you are looking for him and Kamara to try and dribble past the likes of Bartley and Holt and take them out of the game to allow attacking spaces to develop. Over the 90 minutes Kamara attempted three dribbles while Jack attempted none

Darren Fletcher made a point on the SkySports coverage about Gerrard being a number 10 with Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso all having defined roles under Rafael Benitez at Liverpool. Gerrard obviously was the 10, while Alonso was the deep-lying playmaker who would link with Gerrard and knit their attacking play together and Mascherano would be the ball-winner. If you look at Jack and Kamara’s roles it appears they are only there to cover the full-backs and have no defined role or responsibilities when Rangers are on the ball. If they have, the pair certainly didn’t carry them out in this 90 minutes.

The lack of high press

Morelos and Arfield try a half-hearted press which Livingston easily beat
Morelos and Arfield try a half-hearted press which Livingston easily beat

The above image is an attempt at a high press. It had zero structure and intensity and thus it was far too easy for Livingston to play through. However, in matches Rangers face against the low block, the general absence of a high press makes life more difficult for them to beat it. Rangers are always at their best when they press high and it’s common sense that if you are able to win the ball as high as possible you eliminate the midfield and cause potential turnovers and by design you would normally find it easier to create numerous goalscoring chances. 

This performance lacked any of that and became like an attack vs defence training drill in which Livingston came out on top.

This match was a combination of Rangers’ low block failures in the past two seasons 

This match was the failings of Rangers against the low blocked over the last two seasons in one 90-minute outing. Last season it was the idea to break down teams by dribbling and quick combinations, the season before it was fire cross after cross into the box.  In this match there were 11 dribbles attempted seven of which were successful — four came from Ryan Kent. In terms of crosses, there were 36 in total; 16 from James Tavernier and 13 from Barisic made up the majority. Yet only eight were accurate — six from Barisic.

Additionally, just 4% of Rangers’ shots came inside the six-yard box. So it’s no surprise that they couldn’t make any decent chances other than the Morelos header.

Conclusion from Rangers v Livingston

This is a problem that continues to haunt Rangers. We are only four games in and haven’t conceded a goal but last season it was the failure to beat low blocks that cost Rangers. Gerrard and co.must find a solution as Kilmarnock visit Ibrox on Saturday as there is little doubt that they will set up similar to Livingston.

Livingston v Rangers Match Analysis by Jamie Currie

@jamiecurrie89

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