Steven Gerrard experienced his first taste of the Old Firm derby on Sunday afternoon as he took his side to Celtic Park.
Rangers faced their toughest possible test last weekend just days after they returned from Russia where they secured their place in the group stages of the Europa League. The hype surrounding Steven Gerrard’s first ever Old Firm derby as manager of the Gers dominated plenty of the pre-match discussion, but Celtic’s imperious domination ensured that they stole the headlines in the aftermath of proceedings.
With the classy Olivier Ntcham dictating the tempo of proceedings from the centre of midfield, Celtic ran riot at Celtic Park and the 1-0 scoreline served to flatter the lacklustre visitors who were clearly showing signs of fatigue after their midweek journey.
Plenty has been made of Rangers’ performance this week by fans and pundits alike, including the Rangers legend Ally McCoist. Indeed, the fan-favourite was highly critical of Gerrard’s tactical approach during an interview with The Herald.
McCoist was bemused by Gerrard’s decision to start with two strikers upfront whilst adopting a seemingly defensive approach by sitting back and inviting pressure. He claimed “with two forwards you need to play higher up the pitch”, before going on to state that the decision to bring back all 11 players to defend corners was “a little strange”.
There’s no doubt that there is some validity to McCoist’s argument, but it must be considered that Gerrard is lacking big-game experience and the tactical knowledge to deal fixtures of the magnitude he faced last weekend. In truth, it’s difficult to know whether Gerrard demanded his side sit back or if they merely struggled to move up the pitch due to tired legs and Celtic’s vast superiority on the day.
Midweek Europa League trips are notoriously unforgiving on fitness levels and, add in the fact Rangers played more than half the game with 10 men, and it’s easy to see why they struggled to press high and gain a territorial advantage.
As for the decision to bring everyone back on corners, ultimately, Rangers did not concede a single goal from a set play – albeit with a helping hand from the crossbar – and he was simply adopting a no-risk strategy to ensure no stupid goals were conceded.
The Old Firm was a cruel lesson for Gerrard and a timely reminder of the gulf in class which exists in Glasgow and, although his tactics weren’t spot on, McCoist has been harsh with his criticism on what represented Gerrard’s first massive test in football management.
Rangers fans – thoughts? Let us know below!