The two week international break has come at the wrong time for Rangers who are currently in brilliant form. Five of the R’s first team squad are currently away representing their respective countries. A special mention must go to Paul Smyth who scored the winner against South Korea just four minutes into his debut for Northern Ireland debut. Paul was called upto the senior squad just days before after impressing Michael O’Neill in the U23s 5-3 loss against Spain. He clearly loves a debut goal and knows where the back of the net is. At the moment he is on fire so hopefully he can continue his brilliant form in the last few months of the season.
The rest of the squad are continuing the hard work at Harlington in preparation for next Friday’s away trip to Reading. This week the Royals unveiled their new manager Paul Clement who replaces Jaap Stam. Paul is son of former right back Dave Clement, a player who made 472 appearances for the Rs, scoring 28 goals.
As the form table shows, Rangers have been on a great run of form of late. Since the 5-2 defeat at home to Nottingham Forest we are unbeaten in four, taking us 14 points clear of the relegation zone. Barring a complete disaster this should see us fairly comfortably into the next campaign. The Rs have looked a like a completely different team these past few weeks. Like many I think our uplift in form is because of the long awaited and long called for switch in formation.
Since reverting from a five at the back to a flat four the Rs have taken four points at home against Derby and Sunderland and another four points, in very impressive style, away to automatic promotion chasers Aston Villa and Fulham.
It is a switch that fans have been calling for on social media platforms for some time and credit to Holloway and his team for showing tactical flexibility and switching it up.
Better suited to our players-
Jake Bidwell has played LB his whole career so naturally it is much more comfortable for him. After the Villa game he said that as a LWB he feels uncomfortable because he has no winger in front of him, as a player that’s strength is not pace and dribbling he is much more effective with a partner on the left flank.
The same could be said for the RWB position which had been a problem for a while. Whilst James Perch was injured we alternated between Furlong, Jordan Cousins and Pawel Wszolek. Pav and Jordan are not defenders and Darnell similarly struggled at times having to occupy the whole right flank, often times with very little support.
Jack Robinson is a player that has been in good form and for me one of the first names on the team sheet.
However, even he said that playing as the left most centre back it can be a lonely position at times when Bidwell has to push forward, again Robinson felt that he had too much of a space to occupy.
Playing 5 at the back may be useful for the last five or ten minutes of an away game for instance when we just have to grind out a result. However it is clear that our defenders were not wholly confident in that system and look much more balanced in a back four.
Pav has played well in the last few weeks and it typifies why the Rs are best suited to 4 at the back and the use of out and out wingers. At Fulham Pav was asked to play LW and put in a MOTM performance and got the all important equaliser. I thought he was excellent both offensively and defensively and helped Bidwell keep attacking fullback Ryan Federicks quiet for the most part.
I think Wszolek is very much a confidence player and his spells in and out of the team at RWB did not look wholly comfortable and I think it killed his confidence a bit. He looks much better with a defender behind him allowing him to concentrate on getting at his full back.
However after his last few performances, especially Fulham, let’s hope that he continues to shine like we know he can as he seems to have games every so often when he looks unplayable, one only has to think back to Reading last year and the promising performance he put in at Craven Cottage recently.
Up next for the Rs is Reading away on Good Friday. Last season we beat the Royals 0-1 courtesy of a brilliant goal on the counter attack, finished off by Jamie Mackie. Both Pav and Ryan Manning did brilliant in the build up to that goal and both have recently hit great form so let’s hope for a repeat of last year’s result and impressive team performance. Come on you R’s!
Thank you for reading.
Jack da Silva.