Rangers 4-0 Dundee United: Match Analysis

By Jamie Currie
 September 15, 2020

Rangers won their sixth game from seven as they demolished Dundee United 4-0 on Saturday as the Scottish Premiership returned to action following the international break.

First-half goals from Ryan Kent and James Tavernier on his 250th Rangers appearance had Steven Gerrard’s men on easy street by the half-time interval. While Rangers could and probably should have added to their tally beforehand, Kemar Roofe made it three on 68 minutes and substitute Scott Arfield completed the scoring three minutes from time following a lovely flowing Rangers counter-attack.

Rangers’ dominance is backed up several stats:  they dominated possession 60.8% to 39.2%; they also had more shots at goal 25 to Dundee Utd’s six and dominated on the expected goals stat 2.62 to 0.47, meaning they outperformed their xG rating.

During this analysis, I will use statistics and tactical observations to explain how Rangers won the match against Dundee Utd so convincingly.

Line-ups

Rangers and Dundee United lineups

Rangers made no changes to the side that comfortably saw of Hamilton at the Fountain of Youth Stadium last time out. However, that was never meant to be the case. Leon Balogun was supposed to be in for Filip Helander but the Nigerian defender pulled up in the warm-up. But it got even worse for Rangers Ryan Jack had to be replaced by Glen Kamara due to a calf injury in-game and Alfredo Morelos replaced Brandon Barker because he hurt his hamstring all before the half-hour mark.

Micky Mellon changed from a back four to a back three following their 4-0 loss at Kilmarnock last time out but his bold approach didn't do his team any favours.

Rangers targeted Dundee United’s right-hand side to good effect and created two-vs-one situations

Borna Barisic in space on the left wing.

Rangers were purposely targeting Luke Bolton, who was playing as United right-wingback. The home side were able to create numerical advantages against someone who wasn’t playing in his natural position and it paid dividends. 

The above example is a move which ends Kamara’s pass into Roofe being snuffed out. But as you can see they are able to create a two-vs- one situation against Bolton and it’s down to the fact that Calum Butcher – to the right of Kamara – of Dundee United leaves Kamara in so much space. He opted for the pass to Roofe when maybe finding Barisic who is free and in acres of space was the best option.

Borna Barisic assist.

Rangers continued to use their left-hand side to good effect it helped create the opening goal of the match. The above image is the build-up to Rangers’ opening goal. Barisic is taking Bolton on, and Kent has dropped off. Again a two-vs-one situation is created. However, Barisic’s use of Hagi as the third man is vital. He is able to find space and nutmeg Neilson,  while Kent is allowed the freedom to run off Butcher and beat Ryan Edwards before scoring. It’s good third-man running from Kent, and the left-hand side’s ability to isolate Bolton is a massive factor in the goal creation, but Butcher should be tracking Kent and simply allows him to run free, but credit has to go to Kent for making that run from deep. 

Borna Barisic assist

Unsurprisingly, the same action occurred again. The above image is the cross for Rangers’ second goal. On the face of it, the Dundee United defence looks well-set. Hagi is covered by Powers at the D, but again it’s Kent dropping behind Barisic creating that two-vs- one against Bolton, which causes confusion. Neilson should be sliding over to help Bolton in this instance and Butcher should be covering the position vacated by Neilson covering Bolton, but they allow Barisic to get the cross over and James Tavernier’s hunger is enough to beat Jamie Robson at the back post.

Barisic was vital in order for this tactic to be successful; apart from his assist, the Croat made two out of a possible nine successful crosses, made three successful dribbles and three key passes. And his left-hand side partner Kent, scored once, made six key passes and had one out of his three dribbles deemed successful. It’s a dangerous partnership for Rangers and it was one on the day that United failed to get a hold of on the day.  

Dundee United couldn’t cope with the intensity of Rangers’ counter-press

Rangers counter press

Rangers are at their attacking best when their pressing game comes to the fore. Against United this was the case and it was clear to see, especially when Morelos replaced Barker. Jurgen Klopp mentions that a good counter-press is better than having a no.10 in your system, but what happens if you have a no.10 and a hungry, motivated el Bufalo?

The answer is simple – you get a pressing machine.

The above example is proof of Morelos' pressing abilities. The ball is bobbling around the edge of the box and he shows the hunger and intensity to win it back. It gives Rangers space to create as Kamara knocks the ball to Kent allowing him the space in the wide area to pick out Morelos, whose pass is back-heeled by Kemar Roofe and subsequently saved but this was something United struggled to cope with.

Rangers counter press

Morelos made two successful tackles during the period he was on the field. This was the second one – a perfect example of a successful counter-pressing action. He is able to press and dispossess Ian Harkes and start a Rangers attack, allowing Tavernier to get behind Robson. It was unfortunate for Rangers that they couldn't end this counter-press with a goal.

Rangers found space in behind United at will

Usually in these kind of fixtures Rangers come up against a low block and struggle to break it down. They managed 20 of their 25 shots inside the United box – meaning they were able to break down United on several occasions. This is due to Mick Mellon allowing his team to play in an open manner.

Rangers found space in behind Dundee United

As the image above illustrates, Mellon wanted his wing-backs to play high. Furthermore, his system was more of a 3-4-2-1 than a traditional back three or five.

His team were trying to be positive and when they are doing that against a better quality of opposition, they were always liable to leave gaps in behind, especially when they turnover the ball as often as they did during the 90 minutes – 18 in total.

Rangers exploiting the space in behind Dundee United

The above example is Rangers' third goal and how Kent's flick found Arfield, but the situation is helped arise by the sheer number of Rangers players who are running in behind and it creates a massive gap – the shaded area – on the left-hand side for Arfield to exploit and get in behind. His shot-cum-cross is tucked away by Roofe, who made a run across Edwards to position himself in between the posts.

Rangers exploiting the space in behind Dundee United

In contrast to the third goal, the high line was at play. If you look at the Dundee Utd line, they are all over the place, and have given Hagi so much space to run into; then you have Butcher who is playing Hagi onside when he should be in line with Reynolds, but he is slow in moving so he plays Hagi onside. However, Hagi has a lot to do and he found Arfield, who made sure Hagi cutback found the net, and they both took advantage of the space given to them.

Conclusion

Rangers were by far the better side during the game, and if teams set up in the nature Dundee Utd did at Ibrox then they will be in for more hiding similar to the one United had to suffer. It was a performance that looked good on the eye and brought out the best in Rangers' 4-2-3-1 system. Their use of the left-hand side was deadly and of course, they are always better when they press and counter-press which was on show during this 90 minutes. It was the best performance of the season, every aspect of it was spot on and it was aesthetically pleasing for the fans.

By Jamie Currie - @jamiecurrie89

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