BBC Scotland football pundit and ex-Rangers forward Billy Dodds questioned the sharpness of the Ibrox club’s players following their 1-1 draw away to Hearts on Sunday.
Dodds was part of the BBC commentary team for Radio Scotland and suggested there were other factors that contributed to the lackadaisical performance at Tynecastle and the reason they were unable to best a team sitting second-bottom of the league table.
According to Dodds, one of the contributing causes to Rangers struggling to overcome a stuffy Hearts side was the recent international break.
He said in summary after the game: “Did the internationals catch up with the Rangers players? They looked leggy. When they got into good areas the deliveries were poor and Rangers just couldn’t break down that Hearts defence at all.
“Even though the form suggested Rangers could win two or three-nil today, you just knew Hearts wouldn’t roll over given the atmosphere at home.”
So is Dodds correct? Kind of. The Gers players that had the poorest games were at either end of the park with James Tavernier and Sheyi Ojo the two worst-rated players among the visitors’ starting lineup on the BBC Sport website.
Neither of these players were involved during the international break, so fatigue can’t have been a contributing factor to their efforts.
Of the starting XI, Rangers had Borna Barisic, Steven Davis, Glen Kamara, Joe Aribo, Scott Arfield and Alfredo Morelos all representing their respective countries and this is where Dodds makes a valid point.
Rangers created just 6 shots on goal and 1 on target, a distinct lack of attacking verve. The whole midfield and two out of the three attackers had played international football during the break and had travelled a variety of distances – Arfield (Canada), Kamara (Bosnia and Finland) and Aribo (Singapore) in particular didn’t have much downtime.
It isn’t an excuse because Rangers got themselves back into the game at 1-1 just before the break and replaced their entire front three in the second-half; the sharpness should’ve been there.
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard will have to look at his team selection following upcoming international breaks to avoid such a stale performance again if his team are to continue to be part of a successful title chase. Celtic sit on top, just now, with the teams separated by just one goal scored. Ultimately, these are the games that could make or break Rangers’ season, and they have to be at their sharpest from the kick-off every week.
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