Many people were skeptical of the appointment of Steven Gerrard as Rangers FC boss. This was the first job of his managerial career. Tipped to succeed Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool once the German’s tenure is over, Gerrard’s decision of taking up a high-pressure job in Scotland is probably justified, as he looks to formulate his own philosophy. He needs to show the football world his worth as a manager.
So, what sort of philosophy does the Liverpool legend prefers to impose on his players? Well, like most managers today, he prefers a fluid, attacking, possession based 4-3-3 system, with other systems like the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-2-1 being preferred at times.
With the ball, he prefers to have control in midfield as he tries to create central overloads, thereby creating space for the full-backs to go high up the pitch. To break the low-block that teams in Scotland prefer, he adopted an unorthodox and a rather unusual 4-3-3 shape during the latter stages of the 2018/19 season.
Instead of two natural wingers, he began playing two number 10s behind Morelos. This means that they have greater potential in chance creation. This narrow positioning of the front three also helps the team in winning the ball high up the pitch as they can close down the space in the central areas and break counter-attacks. He prefers his midfielders to stay deep and assist in defence, while the third one is given freedom to attack. And like most teams today, he prefers his full-backs to be involved in attack by providing space in the wide areas.
Before his arrival, the Gers finished third under Pedro Caixinha, scoring an average of two goals per game, but were hindered by the concession of 1.32 goals per game. But since the arrival of Steven Gerrard, Rangers now average 2.1 goals per game and concede 0.3 goals per game. He improved the defence to great effect with the acquisitions of Connor Goldson, Jon Flanagan, Joe Worrall, Nikola Katic and Borna Barisic.
Towards the end of the 2018/19 season, he preferred to play more in a 4-2-3-1 system, thereby depending on players like Ianis Hagi for creativity. He, according to WhoScored, averages over 1.8 key passes per game, with a pass success percentage of 81.3%. Hagi is also capable of playing on the right wing. This adaptability gives Gerrard more options in attack.
Moreover, this alteration helped the Gers to a 1-0 Old Firm derby win Ryan Jack scoring the only goal, thereby handing then Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers his first ever loss in Old Firm Derby games. It was Rodgers’ first defeat in 13 games. I think it’s fair to say that Stevie’s tactics are inherited from Rafa Benitez’s tactics at Liverpool and so far, its working.
One thing that Gerrard understands perfectly well is the importance of European competitions. First time in Europe as manager, Gerrard led his team to the Round of 16 of the Europa League, where the Rangers lost 4-1 to Bayer Leverkusen on aggregate. They’re also close to qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League this season, awaiting a play-off fixture against Galatasaray.
Last season, he came close to winning the Scottish Premiership, but finished second and eventually 13 points behind winners Celtic. This season, he will be focused on winning the league, thereby aiming to end Celtic’s near-decade of dominance. Looking at the larger picture, I believe that he can be a worthy successor to Klopp at Liverpool and look to usher in an era of dominance last seen under Bob Paisley in the late 70s and the early 80s.