Rangers emerged victorious over a stuffy FC Midtjylland side 3-1 on the night at Ibrox and 7-3 on aggregate. Rangers’ goals came courtesy of an Alfredo Morelos double and a Sheyi Ojo first-half strike. Evander pulled one back but the night and the tie belonged to Rangers.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at how both sides set up at Ibrox and how Rangers were able to win the match on the night and how a few tactical tweaks caused the Danes some damage.
Rangers, despite the graphic showing 4-3-3, went with their familiar 4-3-2-1 shape. Steven Gerrard rested Joe Aribo and brought in Steven Davis; he also left Jordan Jones out of the side replacing him with Sheyi Ojo. The home side’s tactics were too much for FCM.
The Danes left out the experienced Tim Sparv as Mikael Anderson took his place in the only change of personnel from last week. It was no surprise they went with their normal 5-3-2/3-5-2 system.
Midtjylland got joy from the right flank
Midtjylland had a night to forget overall. However, there was a clear and obvious tactic on their part to target the left-hand side of Rangers’ defence. To their credit, they did get a good amount of joy from this particular tactic.
The above image shows just how early operation ‘target Rangers’ left-hand side took off. Midtjylland’s tempo and short passes as they were building from the back worked on this occasion, as Rangers were rather passive. Ryan Jack steps forward to press Evander, but as the Brazilian is side-on, he’s able to play the quick pass into Kaba.
Niko Katić is too passive in his press, and allows Kaba to turn. When Kaba receives the ball, he’s able to turn, and when this happens, and Katić is pulled out of the defensive line, Sheyi Ojo should be in the position Jon Flanagan is occupying, while Flanagan should be tucked into the space Katić vacated to press. If this happens, Mikael Anderson doesn’t get the space to run in behind and have his effort at goal.
This tactical pattern continued for Midtjylland. And it didn’t come as a surprise when their goal late on in the game came from their right-hand side.
They pressed Rangers high twice during the same phase of play while Rangers attempted to play out this led to a turnover which ultimately led to their goal. The image below shows the high press from Sviatchenko. He’s able to read Flanagan’s error, which causes the turnover of possession. Flanagan is then caught in no man’s land and Mabil is able to get in behind and produce the cross from the goal. However, it all comes from Sviatchenko’s front-foot action.
The right-side ambush proved to be a nice formula for FCM on the night, and something Rangers will have to improve on as 75% of the Danes’ attacks came down Rangers’ left, as shown in the image below.
Scott Arfield’s position caused Midtjylland problems during Rangers’ build-up phase
Despite losing the possession battle 47.71 to 52.29%, it was a controlled display from Rangers. The image below shows how Rangers beat FCM’s press in the build-up phase. Goldson, who is being pressed by Kaba, has two options – Davis inside, or down the line for Tavernier which eliminates the forward players from the game. Ryan Jack drops deep to the right-back position, allowing Tavernier to push high.
Scott Arfield positions himself in between Sviatchenko and Frank Onyeka. Sviatchenko has a problem: go with Arfield or hold the line. He follows Arfield, and that allows Tavernier to create space for a 1vs1 against FCM’s left-wingback. Arfield in that half-space means when he receives the ball he’s able to quickly find an out-ball in the shape of Tavernier, which means Rangers are able to transition from defence to attack at speed.
The above shows FCM’s man-orientated press being picked apart. Tavernier is high on the right, Arfield is circled positioned like a second striker in acres of space. As this move progressed he would be able to run off Erik Sviatchenko into a central area and cause more problems for Midtjylland, who wouldn’t man-mark or follow him to limit his space.
Rangers finding Ojo in behind the back three
The above image is a culmination of Rangers’ build-up play; Arfield being in a central area and Ojo running in behind the defence. It’s Rangers’ tactical plan in one move. Arfield received the ball from Jack, who was under no pressure from FCM. Arfield looked up and played Ojo in behind; his pass led to Morelos’ first goal and it was similar for the third goal, too.
FCM gave Arfield too much space with the half-hearted attempt at a press while Morelos, at the top of the image, is making sure he gets in front of his man when Ojo is sent in behind. This was similar to Jones in the first leg but Ojo managed a goal and an assist on the night.
The above image is Sheyi Ojo getting in behind the FCM defence. Similar to the first image, Rangers looked to play him in behind with the only two passes in the final third. In this instance, Rangers are on the counter-attack. Ryan Jack carried the ball into the final third before playing the first pass to Glen Kamara. Kamara is able to play Ojo in behind due to the space he’s in and Ojo’s quickness of foot and thought. Furthermore, it’s easier for Rangers to execute such moves when they have numbers looking to occupy defenders like Arfield is, trying to get in behind, and Morelos is from deeper.
As this analysis showed, Rangers may have had less possession but their tactical tweaks helped them win on the night. Midtjylland exploited Rangers left-hand side weakness. However, Rangers’ use of both Arfield and Sheyi Ojo was enough to win the match and it will again leave the FCM coaching staff with much to ponder. As for Rangers and Steven Gerrard, he is now proving he and his team can use all the weapons at their disposal, and that allowed Rangers to book their place in the UEFA Europa League play-off round with relative ease.
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