Now that preseason is over and the start of competitive football is on the horizon, let’s look at what we learned from Rangers friendly matches. Obviously, the main goal in these games is to build up match fitness. It also gives fans a chance to see how the team may line up and an opportunity to see new signings in action.
So, what did we learn this preseason?
Defensive Worries Still Remain
Throughout the course of preseason, many things would have been work on, on the training ground. The defensive side, you would think, would have been a particular focus for Rangers this summer. As much as the club didn’t score enough goals, or create enough chances, defensive issues were key to some dropped points in key matches, particular against our rivals.
Some of those same issues have, however, reared their ugly head again in the recent matches. The biggest one, for me anyway, still being the lack of tracking late runners from deep. Olympiakos got two goals from a player being left on the edge of the area, due to midfielders not tracking the runners. This was an issue last season and it’s unfortunate to see that it still is now, hopefully it’s something that will be worked on heavily this week.
Defensive issues in the full back areas. One on one, Rangers full backs were very poor over the four friendlies. Every side looked to get joy down the wings due to a combination of Tavernier, Barisic and Ridvan’s poor defensive displays. Each full back, at some point during the games, was easily beaten by a long switch over the top of their head. It’s the basics that they are failing with and that’s why it’s so frustrating. Defenders should know when to stand off and when to go in for the tackle, this wasn’t the case in these games though. Each opponent found joy attacking Rangers down the wings and it was worrying to see. Again, preseason is about upping the fitness levels so hopefully these issues don’t continue into the domestic and European campaigns.
The Attacking Play Hasn’t Clicked (Yet)
It’s clear to see what Michael Beale wants in the attacking third. Short, sharp passes and quick movement to create space. This is why he’s bought so many players who demand the ball constantly like Raskin, Cantwell and Lammers.
Players like them always find themselves in good positions to receive the ball and like to link up with their team mates to move the ball up the pitch. When it works, it’s beautiful to watch and it’s happened a few times within these games, not enough though.
It’s another thing that will take time but when it clicks, Rangers will be an attacking force.
Certain Players Need to Move on
The particular players, in my opinion, this applies to are Borna Barisic and Rabbi Matondo. John Lundstram may also fall into this category, especially with only a year left on his deal.
With Barisic, he’s never managed to improve his weaknesses. He’s a poor one on one defender and lacks positional sense. It’s tiring seeing him constantly be beaten by a switch of play to the opponents right sided player.
Rangers have lost many goals over his time here due to his poor defending. Now, with a year left on his deal, I personally don’t want to go through another season of it.
With Matondo, I just don’t think he has the technical ability to play for a club like Rangers. He’s rapid and, at times, looks capable of causing trouble. If you took away his pace though, he’d be nowhere near this level.
His decision making in the final third is poor and his finishing is even worse. It’s mind boggling how he didn’t score at least once against Olympiakos with all the shots he took in a short space of time. He’s still young and could improve. Rangers need consistently good players now though and should look to recoup as much for the Welshmen as possible.
I’m on the fence with Lundstram. He looked like the Europa League version of himself towards the end of last season. However, in these friendlies he was pretty poor. He was slow to react, held on to the ball for too long and brought promising attacks to a halt. There’s only one year left on his deal, could he be moved to on make space for others?
He’s been the most encouraging part of preseason for me. There were question marks over Rangers bringing him in due to his goal scoring record in recent years.
However, the big Dutchman has been fantastic at times during the friendlies. His touch and control of the ball is superb, technically he looks a step above what is currently at the club.
He’s played at the 10 and picks up excellent positions in midfield and attack. His link up play with the likes of Cantwell and Raskin has been a joy to watch at times.
He plays with an elegance that makes it look like he has so much time on the ball. He’s already scored 2 goals in preseason and I can’t wait to see what he can do when competitive football is back.
How important do you see him being for Rangers this season?
Read more of my thoughts on Sam Lammers here.
Preseason is all about getting minutes in the legs. However, some problems still remain from last season and that’s a concern. That being said, if Rangers go out and hammer Kilmarnock on Saturday and progress in the Champions League, will anyone care about preseason? No.
There’s still work to be done, especially defensively. I hope, at least, one other starting calibre centre back arrives in the window.
What were your takeaways from preseason? What do you think is the most important thing for Michael Beale to work on? Are you confident going into this season?