Rangers’ mindset and tactics were all wrong for the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final game before a ball was kicked and, as the game unfolded at Hampden, Celtic took control. Too underprepared, too mismatched, too far behind. Not only were the fans frustrated, but the players were, too. Their frustration was clear and understandable, with the game proving to be another chronically painful reminder that their side is some way off a credible challenge to their rivals.
Celtic’s 4-0 win means they now stand on the verge of back-to-back trebles and, although they will be tested by Motherwell in the final, few would expect them to falter now. After lifting the League Cup in November the Hoops are only one win away from retaining the league title.
Their dominant, ruthless demolition of Rangers proves that domestically they are way ahead of any team in Scottish football. Tom Rogic, Callum McGregor, Moussa Dembele and Olivier Ntcham scored as Celtic outplayed their opponents.
Realistically, second spot in the Premiership is a pragmatic prospect for Rangers, and would show progress under Graeme Murty after finishing in third place last season. However, this result, and the manner of it, will leave Rangers feeling frustrated. Even if they didn’t fully believe they could win they expected better.
Rangers are unlikely to accept more of the same, and need drastic change.
So what are three changes Rangers could make for when they meet again this Sunday?
Utilise their midfield
Rangers’ tactics were all wrong, and the main problem was in their midfield. The midfield was the biggest area of the pitch and Rangers were miles away from where they needed to be. It was their biggest battle in the game and they were just completely overrun.
The idea behind having three midfield players sitting deep was designed to counter Celtic’s threat, but in reality it had the opposite effect. They used their midfield to protect their back four, but their defence should have been strong enough to protect itself.
They should have used their midfield to drive the ball up the field, and should have had enough trust in their back four to allow their midfield to breathe.
In the second half of the game Rangers had Ross McCrorie sent off, but they actually played better when they were down to 10 men because they had more offensive options.
Close down Scott Brown
It is clear that Scott Brown absolutely dominated the game. He is a master at keeping the midfield moving, pressing the ball up field, taking risks and not backing down from challenges or a possible threat from a bigger player.
He is, and has been for a while, one of Celtic’s best players and he never fails to deliver on the pitch – there is a reason why Scott Brown is Scott Brown.
Brown poses a threat to any player from any team that come up against Celtic, but with Rangers he seemed to walk all over them.
Rangers didn’t have anyone marking Brown, which meant that without players closing him down he just strolled through the game and managed to get the ball from one end of the field to the other without much difficulty.
Rangers need to get players to close down Brown to prevent the ball getting up the pitch.
Put someone else up front
Alfredo Morelos’ miss means questions will persist about his ability. On one hand, the Columbian has scored over 13 league goals this season and has been the one to find the back of the net in big games against Aberdeen and Hibernian. However, he’s also a striker who should have scored more given the chances he’s presented with and who hasn’t yet scored against Celtic.
In the semi-final, he appeared to be through on goal, only to see his net-bound shot blocked by Craig Gordon. Perhaps against Celtic, Rangers should have played a reliable striker who has Old Firm experience who can cope under that pressure and who has scored against Celtic before.
Kenny Miller would have been a good player to go for, but with him now suspended it will be interesting to see if they play Morelos again or if they go for someone else like Jason Cummings.