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Thoughts on season and what's needed....

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Quote Originally Posted by AriseSirWalter View Post
Glad it's all over!

Pre-season I was optimistic until the Burnley friendly, midfield were woefully short that day and early signs were there that we didn't have the energy to take our style of play from Championship up to SPFL. As painful as some of the defeats this season have been I think the most damaging for the team came last season against St Johnstone in the cup, we were picked apart so easily on the counter I think it was on the management/player's minds going into this season and we didn't fully commit to dominating the ball with a high defensive line (understandably so).

There are 3 ways we could have made ourselves less open to counter attack;
  1. Kept better ball possession, if we lost it less then we'd give teams less chances to counter.
  2. Buy a natural defensive midfielder to protect defense whenever teams countered.
  3. Play deeper to limit space teams could have to run in behind us.

The first option would have been the ideal but we don't have the players to keep possession, unless it was sterile sideways/backwards passing.

We have been unlucky with Rossiter's injuries as I think he'd have done a job protecting defense, which would have allowed others (fullbacks) to get forward with more confidence instead of worrying about being caught on the break.

This season we have played a lot deeper, our defense last season held a high line which meant fullbacks could get forward to support, midfield didn't have as much ground to cover and there were plenty of options up front.

We were caught in between what we would like to play, attacking 433, which requires high defensive line, and what we had to play, deep defensive line because of the players we have. This meant that there was far too much space between forwards and defense which meant too much ground for fullbacks and midfield to cover. Fullbacks didn't get forward and support as much which blunted our attacks and there was too much space in the midfield which made it easy for our midfield to be dominated.

As much as I've been pissed off with the players I think it's this structural failing that has been the reason for our poor season more than players. If you look at the players who have pass marks they're the ones less affected by the way we set up....
  • Wes - we had a deeper defensive line and didn't take as many chances at the back meaning people would say he had a better season that last.
  • Hill - again deep defensive line meant that he didn't have to worry about being turned and chasing people in behind, for the most part he could use his organisational skills and win his individual battles.
  • Miller - guy made up for it in sheer effort, is a model professional who genuinely gives his all. He was asked to cover more ground that he should have been because of the system but his work-ethic allowed him to do that.

Also the players who've performed poorly have been a result of structure....
  • Tav & Wallace - asked to cover too much ground (because of deep defensive line) which meant that Tav looked dodgy at the back and Wallace didn't get up to support attack enough.
  • McKay - didn't get support from Wallace which meant he never had the option to play overlapping fullback in and he lacks the confidence to go past players which he has the ability to do.
  • Halliday & Holt - just lost in midfield because they were asked to cover so much ground.
  • Waghorn & Garner - not given enough goal scoring chances because midfield and fullbacks were being asked to do so much that they didn't effectively support forward players.

I'm not making excuses for them, some of them aren't good enough for where we want to be. And the likes of Forrester and Windass appear to be more interested in looking the part on Instagram rather than digging in when things are tough but if we want to improve we first have to identify the problems and while the players have been poor I don't think it's simply because they're not good enough.

The only positives for me this season is the young players coming through in last few games (Wilson, Barjonas, Bates and Beerman) look like they should be in the first team squad next season, hopefully learn from better players than the ones we have now and be brought into a team that is playing with more confidence and in a better system. If we can provide that for them I'm hoping they can really kick on. Wilson and Barjonas in particular. Another positive is that we ended up in third because of our own poor performance not because the standard of league is anything we can't cope with.

Going forward there are two gaps we need to close, first we need to get back to consistently beating others in the league, we need to get back to winning games where we've being paying poorly and as a Club get the mentality back that we go into a game against Motherwell, Dundee, etc and we know we're going to win. Arrogant maybe, but we need to get back there. Teams believing they have a chance of getting something from us makes the game more difficult than it should be.

The 2nd gap is the one between us and them, there is a gap would be foolish to deny it. The gap on the pitch is big, off the pitch is bigger and it will take time for it to close unfortunately but there's a glass ceiling for all Scottish teams so as long as we continue improving then we will be making inroads. They have been exceptionally consistent this season, they can't bank on that happening every year so if we get back to beating the rest consistently then we won't be far away.

We need to be more pragmatic than we were this season, adopting the same formation for Hamilton at home as cel'ic away is ridiculous as we'll have different objectives, or maybe the same objective but will have to go about it different ways. So it's good that we'll now consider opposition and have a plan B.

I must admit I have my doubts about Caixinha, Motherwell at home was the most disorganised display I've ever seen but we had injuries and it was bold to change it as he did so I'll forgive that. Aberdeen at home is the one that worries me most, the midfield was awful and that's a concern. I gave him benefit of doubt and put it down to him writing off season and experimenting with players but bringing on a 3rd CH against St Johnstone shows how much he wanted to win that so doubt he's experimenting - maybe he just doesn't rate midfield.

But he has my full backing but more importantly needs the boards, him squeezing more out of the squad than MW looks unlikely so he's going to need his own players. And there's a concerted media effort to undermine him purely because he's the Rangers manager and does things differently, they're trying to ridicule him because it makes good copy for them. We need to stand by him until results (not media analysis of his methods) dictate otherwise.

I doubt we'll have the funds to overhaul the entire squad, so given creative players/goal scorers are more expensive I think our priority should be making it nigh-on impossible to score against us. Have a well organised, solid defensive unit. If we're going to lose a game then make sure the opposition have to fight like f*ck to win it, no easy games against us, home or away. That should be a priority.

Confidence will grow from each clean sheet, not only in defense but attack will know that 1 goal will likely be enough and that should give them confidence too.

Personally I'd play 4231 in most games which can drop back to 451 when we don't have the ball. In games were we're likely to have less of the ball I'd play 343 with Tav/Wallace (or replacements) as wing backs which can drop back to 541 when we are under pressure. If we can't control the ball we control the space. When we don't have the ball there should be a maximum distance between defense and attack (Sacchi's Milan had 25 meters) meaning opposition can't just waltz through midfield. We were too easy to play against this season because of the space opposition midfield had.

This season is more important for us, maybe we can't expect to win the league but we certainly can't afford another 'transitional' season, must be solid improvement and I'm confident there will be. Banter years, as 'enjoyable' as they've been must be gone for good, it might take time for us to be the best team in the country again but this season we should be formidable. Time for us to command respect again and strike fear into those coming to Ibrox.

Will be short but hopefully a productive and exciting summer.

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