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Good article on Rangers from the grauniad


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Rangers on the defensive to keep fighting on three fronts

No one will accuse Rangers of being anti-football if they claim the quadruple, and victory in tonight's Old Firm derby will set them on their way

Ewan MurrayApril 16, 2008 9:49 AM

It was Lionel Messi, of all people, who started it. The Barcelona striker, perturbed at the tactics employed by Rangers during a Champions League match earlier this season, branded Rangers an "anti-football" side. And boy has the label stuck. Messi had a point - on that November night, Rangers' defenders were in danger of trampling over punters in the stands, they played so deep. But if there is one team in the world to sit in and play a packed defence against, it is Barcelona; look what happened to Celtic when they tried to be expansive a few months later.

There have been times, notably against unquestionably weaker opposition in home European ties, when Rangers have seemed more negative than is perhaps necessary. However, last Thursday's showing against Sporting in Lisbon should destroy the widely-held assumption that Walter Smith has assembled a team of glorified hammer throwers in the last 15 months. With passing and territorial domination that was as striking as any Scottish team have displayed on foreign soil for many years, Smith's men proved that they can and do play good football when afforded even half an opportunity. It was no coincidence, of course, that the playing surface in the José Alvalade stadium was immaculate.

Barry Ferguson, Kevin Thomson and Steven Davis - the core of the Rangers midfield - are far from anti-football players. Ferguson remains the most talented midfielder in Scotland, Thomson's left-foot passing is seldom afforded the recognition it deserves and Davis combines guile with industry to positive effect. Those who yearn for the creative skills of Chris Burke or Charlie Adam should recall that such players were unable to save Paul Le Guen's job.

Smith's favoured 4-5-1 formation, with two wide midfielders operating as auxiliary attackers when Rangers go forward, is not as negative as it sounds. And it is successful - a rare change to 4-4-2 during a recent league match against Dundee United saw Rangers lose three goals and drop two points. Ironically if, and it remains a big if, the Rangers manager bows to public pressure and attempts to inject flair into his team for next season, they may not be nearly as successful as they have been in this one.

Rather than flying in the face of the ethos of football, good defending is an art in itself - Rangers should not be criticised for being highly capable at the back and having, in Carlos Cuellar, the outstanding player of the Scottish campaign to date. The finest teams in the world have all been built from a solid backline and Smith's ethos is perfectly logical. The manager has at least retained a sense of humour amid criticism of his policy. When Smith was told as he received the SPL's manager of the year award on Monday night that this 4-5-1 lark just would not do, he responded: "Aye ... too many forwards!"

Those who question Rangers' capabilities at the business end of the pitch should consider that only one team in Europe - Ajax - has scored more goals than Rangers this season. Smith will adopt one of his most cautious approaches this evening, as Rangers realistically need only a point at Celtic Park to secure the Premier League title. Few managers would do otherwise; Martin O'Neill's Celtic were frequently one-dimensional, arguably more so than Rangers are now, but supporters cared not one iota, and why would they have worried when trophy success arrived so regularly? It wasn't anti-football then, and should not be termed as such by carping onlookers today.

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Great article that!


Love the line:

"Those who question Rangers' capabilities at the business end of the pitch should consider that only one team in Europe - Ajax - has scored more goals than Rangers this season"


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Those who question Rangers' capabilities at the business end of the pitch should consider that only one team in Europe - Ajax - has scored more goals than Rangers this season

To the people who call us anti-football and criticise the formation!

Even though I couldn't argue one player who deserves the Player of the Year award more than him, I think Carlos Cuellar is prone to mistakes and on the whole is at best an above average defender. He has a tendency to allow balls to bounce over his head and his passing can be suspect too. But there haven't been many exceptional players in Scotland this year to beat him to it.

Ok timmy, jog on doh

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