In the third of our four takeaways from the Scottish football weekend, Craig Fowler wonders whether Kenny Miller and Dean Shiels are the men to get the Rangers’ juggernaut going again
Mark Warburton has made it very clear that Rangers will not be changing their football philosophy even if the Ibrox club have come back to earth somewhat since their rip-roaring start to the season.
Before it was not a question of if, but of how many goals Rangers would defeat the opposition by. Against Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena they only carved open three truly clear-cut chances, taking one of them when Jason Holt fired the visitors in front. It used to be that they’d score five and lament not making it ten, so there’s certainly been a drop-off.
Warburton rightly observed that teams will put everyone behind the ball against the title favourites and that it’s hard to break down. This is undoubtedly true, but Rangers have faced against such opposition since August, when everyone realised this was a very different animal than the one neglected by a succession of uninspiring carers last season.
There was no problem getting through the defensive wall then. Something has changed.
Warburton insists it’s a case of showing true quality in the final third. It’s also been caused by opposition teams knowing what’s going to come at them, particularly the full-time sides who have the resources and extra hours through the week to study film and learn how to deal with the seemingly infinite number of attackers flying at them.
To face up to such relentlessness, opponents still have to scrap, fight and work themselves into the ground to even get a point, which is what Livingston did on Saturday. The undoubted superior talents of Holt, Nathan Oduwa, Gedion Zelalem and Barrie McKay meant Rangers still had much more of the ball in midfield, but there was often a lack of urgency and perhaps even a lack of fight when compared to the home side.
Warburton introduced Dean Shiels and Kenny Miller as the match went on, and he may wish to bring those players into the starting XI with increasing regularity as the winter months roll on.
They may not possess the skill or finesse of an Oduwa or Zelalem, but they have experience, a bit of dig and can be assets for the team in games where it’s less about quality and more about winning the war of attrition, which will happen when the pitches get bogged down more by the weather.
Nicky Law is another option in the centre who could provide something different and a bit of balance to the centre midfield duo, which can lack variety when it’s Holt and Zelalem as both like to dictate the flow of Rangers’ passing.