19 July 2013

New formation throws more questions than answers

by Jamie Currie | Guest Contributor

The nine months ahead could be make or break for many Rangers fans when it comes to Ally McCoist and his position as manager.

He still has some room for manoeuvre with most of the light blue legions, after all the trouble the club has been through in the last 18 months to two years - however there is showing loyalty then there is blind loyalty.

The Rangers legend has now come out saying he's settled on two systems for next season; 4-4-2 the traditional system and the slightly unorthodox 4-1-3-2. In which the latter of the two is to be his primary choice of formation.

McCoist says this 4-1-3-2 formation suits his players. The question is, does he mean the players who are part of the pre-season tour or the squad as a whole? The reason I ask that question is primarily the formation will have four central midfielders, one of which of course will sit and protect the back four and the other 3 which will push on. 

The width on the other hand would presumably come from both full-back positions as the midfield would be of a narrow disposition. The main positive of using this formation is the ability to dominate a midfield providing the passing is sharp and slick and possession is kept to a reasonable standard. The downside to using this system is the lack of wingers, I am of the belief wingers are of paramount importance when you are a team who are more than likely doing the attacking in the majority of games, yes they are inconsistent but they are worth their weight in gold if they can provide that important goal or vital assist. 

It begs question of certain players, firstly David Templeton, who was one of the stand-out players last season - when fit. Where does he fit into this new system? There is no number ten like he played at times last season, likewise no place for wingers in the narrow three in-front of the holding midfielder. Which would suggest to be able to fit Templeton into this system, he would need to play as one of the front two or perhaps a little deeper to find space and drive at the opposition. The exact same could be said for Dean Shiels, the Ulsterman who didn't overly impress many last season but with 10 goals plus; he certainly played his part.

Rangers, with seven new recruits and probably a few more to join the ranks, have got four wins from four in pre-season so far with a further two games to play before the competitive action gets underway at Almondvale against Albion Rovers on the 28th of July. 

Although throughout these pre-season friendly matches McCoist has gone more often than not with the flat 4-4-2 which would unlike the 4-1-3-2 system provide extra width and then easier to fit the attacking players such as Templeton and Shiels into with minimal fuss, it's a system that has done well by Rangers throughout the years. 

Yet McCoist is right to some extent; you must find a system and style of play which in your mind suits the personnel at your disposal. The run to the UEFA Cup Final of 2008 proves his point precisely. Rangers were hammered from pillar to post by everyone outside the club for playing a defensive formation, yet if Rangers had opened up and had a go at the likes of Lyon, Barcelona, and Fiorentina on that run there would have been no game against Zenit in Manchester to attend.

I have thrown together two sides with players in their natural positions - apart from Andy Little. McCoist doesn't see our best goal scoring threat of last season as a striker, which is baffling in itself. One of the sides is the 4-4-2, the other is in the favoured formation 4-1-3-2.

This is as close as it would seem is possible to fathom at this point how McCoist would prefer to line up in the case of the use of both systems, yet it doesn’t include the likes of youngsters; Barrie McKay, Robbie Crawford and Fraser Aird. Nor does it include the aforementioned Shiels or captain McCulloch. We will surely see a settled side after the transfer window shuts at the beginning of September and of course if any other new faces arrive or any of the current squad depart.

McCoist is certainly giving it a go with regards to better fitness levels of the side and if he indeed wants the team to play the best football in SPFL2 next season he is certainly mixing it up with regards to the personnel which is without doubt a lot stronger this summer than last. It could also be useful fighting on four fronts for a rotation policy to be used at times. 

Regardless of that, cap doffed to McCoist for at least trying something new, even if the 4-1-3-2 system at this early stage provides more questions than answers.