Rangers vs Livingston: All head and no beer

Following an uninspired goalless draw at Livingston, Rangers need to start learning how to break down defences and put games to bed.

Oh dear, where to begin? This wasn’t a loss, not by a long shot, but doesn’t it feel like Rangers came out the losers here? You can only but imagine Livingstone players hugging each other, getting the chairman in to hand out medals, breaking out the bubbly for a celebratory shower. A job well done from Livi, they got exactly what they played for from the first whistle, but the Blues? Opportunity lost.

And here’s the rub; Livi could have watched us pass the ball around all day long.

Now, to be fair, this technically wasn’t a bad performance for the Gers. I know many would disagree with this, substituting various other synonyms in place of “bad”, but 78.4% possession is outright bonkers. Ryan Jack made more successful passes than the entire Livingston team combined. By every single metric, this game was only really heading one way – except, well, it didn’t.

All the possession in the world, all the passing, the lateral movement, the runs and attempts, mean very little when your forwards couldn’t finish dinner. A common complaint of the Spanish style of football, oft-incorrectly lumped together as “tiki taka”, is that it appears as football without purpose, without destination. So concerned with drawing triangular lines around the opponents, they’ve become blind to the fact they aren’t actually winning the game.

And here’s the rub; Livi could have watched us pass the ball around all day long.

The good news is, Stevie G isn’t avoiding the issue and doesn’t, at least for now, handwave it away as a blip. In his post match presser, he had the following to say, as quoted by The Scottish Sun;

“I’m sure people will point fingers now and say we didn’t have enough to break Livingston down. We have to accept that.

I’m frustrated we haven’t taken maximum points.

I don’t think we’ve done an awful lot wrong except not being able to find that moment of magic or quality in the final third.

Unfortunately we just couldn’t find the breakthrough and didn’t have enough quality in the final third. We knew they’d have a lot of men behind the ball.

We knew they’d be well organised, we knew they’d try and waste time. We knew they’d try and hide the ball from the side of the pitch.

That’s what teams try and do. We have to accept that and try to be better. We’ve only got ourselves to blame in terms of the missed opportunity.

A lot of players did their jobs and did really well. Our match-winners haven’t turned up.

It’s that last bit which gives me equal parts concern and hope. We just signed two strikers and had Alfredo Morelos on for most of the game. In terms of strikers, that’s basically all hands on deck if you consider Jermain Defoe getting injured does kinda tend to happen a lot. Nonetheless, Gerrard assures us that the quality is there, just for today it didn’t decide to show up – no doubt a signal that he went ham in the dressing room after the game.

Either way, if the quality isn’t there it isn’t there. If it’s there but not being applied, at least that we can work on. This does look a stronger Rangers side than last season, teams are going to park the bus against us, the challenge is going to be giving all that good football we play the end product it deserves.

It’s easier said than done, of course. It’s much easier to sit back and blame Livi for time wasting essentially from the first whistle. Or blaming the overall negative football or 10 men behind the ball, showing no ambition to win the game, that we have and will encounter. But that’s all just as valid, and clearly effective, a tactic as any other.

We need to be doing our job. There’s no use playing two Defensive Midfielders from the off against a parked bus – throw on more attackers and get an early goal to draw them before you concentrate on controlling the game. It’s not just a tactical decision, it’s a mindset.

Of course, much missed was Joe Aribo, out after a knock in training, who provides game changing pace. But we can’t just fall apart if he’s not there. Rangers, yet to even look like conceding a goal in the League so far, need to focus all out on their attack. The best defence is a good offence. The fans see it, and Gerrard sees it too. Fail to fix that and we’re just all head and no beer.