Europa League 2019/20: St Joseph’s vs Rangers – tactical analysis

Europa League 2019/20: St Joseph's vs Rangers - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

Rangers started their Europa League with a comprehensive 4-0 win against Gibraltarian minnows St Joseph’s. As a result of the victory, they become the first Scottish club to win against a team from Gibraltar in European competition.

Steven Gerrard started with two debutants either side of Jermain Defoe in attack – Sheyi Ojo and Jordan Jones. The first half was a rather drab affair with Rangers controlling the game from the off. However, it would be a much better second-half display that would render the second leg meaningless.

Five minutes into the second period, Borna Barišić crossed for Ryan Jack to volley home. Rangers were in to go on and assert their dominance when Sheyi Ojo curled a lovely shot past the keeper after cutting in from the right-hand side.

The third goal came courtesy of a Barišić free-kick. However, the referee didn’t seem to give the goal until Connor Goldson knocked the ball over the line after the keeper had clawed it out the first time.

To round off a thoroughly professional display, Alfredo Morelos and James Tavernier linked up as they did so many times last season as Morelos headed Tavernier’s cross home despite the keeper’s best efforts.

Talking points


Rangers St Joseph's Tactical Analysis Analysis Statistics Tactics

Steven Gerrard went with the 4-3-2-1 system that served the team so well at the end of last season. He went with Davis, Kamara and Jack in midfield due to Joe Aribo not being up to full speed and with Defoe up top after his goal at the weekend against Oxford coupled with Alfredo Morelos just returning from a groin problem. And it proved to be the right choice from the Rangers manager given the emphatic nature of the win.

Classy Kamara

Throughout the game, I felt Kamara was the best of the midfield three, despite Ryan Jack scoring. Obviously, when discussing the performances there has to be the caveat that it’s St Joseph’s but Kamara looked so composed and was a joy to watch. He completed 96% of his overall passes (99/103); However, the most impressive aspect of his performance was his spacial awareness. He always made himself available for a pass – he received 83 passes – and he’s always played with his head up. But he was also willing to take the ball and drive the team on from deep. Hopefully going forward, that’s something he adds to his game because he’s very capable as he showed during this match.

Sheyi Ojo – a superb competitive debut

He scored an Arjen Robbenesque goal but that wasn’t the only reason Sheyi Ojo made an impression on this victory for Rangers. His ability to carry the ball and beat his man was an impressive trait of his game: he completed 10 successful dribbles from a possible 10, with four progressive runs thrown into the mix. Furthermore, his willingness to have a shot was pleasing to see, especially as it was something the team often lacked against low blocks last campaign. He was my man of the match and his energy and pace really lit up the game.

Morelos looks raring to go again

He came on to replace Jermain Defoe around the hour mark. And he picked up where he left off. He looked a lot sharper than Defoe, he was a better fit for the game at that point than Defoe and of course, he took his goal very well.

Even though Rangers started with two wingers, the shape of the team remained Christmas tree-like.

Rangers St Joseph's Tactical Analysis Analysis Statistics Tactics

The image above shows Ojo with the ball and Defoe playing right on the defender. That’s not his game, but as you can see, if he moves where the arrow is pointing he would occupy one of the three St Joseph’s players allowing Ojo to potentially find Jordan Jones’ run. It’s very unlike Defoe in that regard; everyone has off nights and this was one of his.

Rangers St Joseph's Tactical Analysis Analysis Statistics Tactics

By contrast, as you see Morelos circled above, dropping deeper to link the play with Ojo wide right and Jones wide left. However, with Morelos dropping deeper it allowed Aribo to get beyond and create a different problem for St Joseph’s. Morelos might be on his way come the end of the window, but he showed he’s raring to go again this season.


It was a no-win situation for Rangers. Had they slipped up the knives would have been out, and even with the win being so emphatic, it’s a case of well, they should be winning anyway. However, given it’s the first competitive match of the season, the attitude and application was excellent. And now Rangers can look forward to the next round without having to overexert themselves on Thursday night at Ibrox.

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