Post-match Analysis: Aberdeen vs Rangers

By Jamie Currie
 August 3, 2020

Rangers started the Scottish Premiership season with a straightforward victory against Aberdeen at Pittodrie by a 1-0 scoreline. The goal came courtesy of Ryan Kent when he was quickest to Alfredo Morelos’ through ball and he almost had all afternoon to fire past Joe Lewis and he did so with supreme calmness and quality. Frankly, it was as easy an afternoon in Aberdeen that Rangers have had for a very long time. Steven Gerrard’s side asserted their quality very early on and the hosts, who were without their main strikers – Sam Cosgrove and Curtis Main – couldn’t muster a clear-cut chance all afternoon despite Derek McInnes using four of his five permitted subs. Their cause wasn’t helped when Andrew Considine saw red after a wild lunge on Rangers sub Scott Arfield.

In this analysis, I will look at some talking points using stats, annotated images and opinion to analyse Rangers’ victory.

The only real surprise in Rangers’ line-up was the inclusion of Leon Balogun over George Edmundson in the centre of defence. Otherwise, the Rangers team and 4-3-2-1 shape picked itself.

Aberdeen went with their usual 4-2-3-1 but lacked punch in the final third throughout the 90 minutes.

Morelos dropping deep to create space for deep runs from Kent

The biggest change in Rangers’ play was Alfredo Morelos almost playing as a false nine, dropping into pockets, dragging defenders from their line and thus allowing Ryan Kent, Ianis Hagi and Joe Aribo to get beyond him and make penetrating runs into the space he had vacated. In the example above , Morelos dropping deep gives Scott McKenna a problem. Aberdeen often deploy a very structured and rigid man-marking system across the park.

Rangers are able to build from the back and Morelos uses the Hagi dummy to his advantage, McKenna goes with Morelos, leaving space in behind especially as Considine is caught upfield.Hernandez isn’t on the cover, allowing Kent to get in behind and onto Morelos’ pass to score the winner.

It wasn’t a one-off Kent being able to get in behind. The above image shows Morelos deeper on the turn, dragging McKenna and Taylor further forward leaving space for Goldson to fire the ball in behind for Kent, who was making the out to in run. If Kent had taken a touch instead of letting the ball bounce, Rangers would have had an early goalscoring chance.

Ryan Jack and Kamara are too similar
Rangers completely bossed the match the 61% possession stat proves that as well as Aberdeen having just two shots on target compared to Rangers’ 14 shots and four on target.

However, the burning issue from the game and the system in general is the Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara midfield partnership, mainly because they normally like to have a game of keepball between themselves within a 90 minutes.

There were 90 progressive passes in the match: five from Kamara to Morelos with 100% sucess and four from Jack to Aribo. If you look at the average positions in the image above they are almost joined at the hip.

But with those progressive passes came the lateral passes. 215 passes with Jack and Kamara topping the midfield combinations with 13. In these types of fixtures we need more progressive and key passes from both of them, especially when they are up against teams like Aberdeen and how they like to set up in that deep man-marking system.

Balogun strolled it
As debuts, go Leon Balogun’s was pretty impressive. The Nigerian won 100% of his defensive duels and 7 out of 8 aerial duels – 88% and six interceptions.

In terms of his general play, his passing came in at 88% – 59 of 67 were accurate and of his two dribbles one was a success, winning Rangers a free-kick. Also he looked composed and had a really good afternoon. The test will be how he builds on this performance against a side with a better attacking threat.

Gerrard using one sub
This was a common criticism of Steven Gerrard last season – his use of subs. In this match he made one – Arfield for Hagi. I don’t think that this one merits any criticism, it was spot on. If he brings on three or four and one of them makes an error which leads to an equaliser, Gerrard would get it in the neck. But he was correct in this instance. He could see the control was there from his side and they rewarded his faith by seeing the match out in comfortable fashion.

To conclude, performance-wise there is much to improve on. However, using Morelos as a false nine, helped Rangers create different openings and it’s something it build on providing Morelos stays for a little longer.

All things considered, though. Three points, a clean sheet and a mature performance, game one of the season is something for Gerrard and his players to be pleased about.

Written by Jamie Currie (@jamiecurrie89)

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