Rangers honeymoon over for Graeme Murty after Hamilton shocker

By Kyle McLean | Guest Contributor

Straight out the gate, this is a shocking result. There’s no positive spin to put on it, as much as I try to remain as positive as possible in each analysis. In theory, Ross McCrorie may learn from his mistake and grow to be a better footballer for it – but even that sounds hollow. And without his error, it was still 1-0.

This was the end of the Graeme Murty honeymoon period – a stark reminder that while he’s a good academy boss and may well one day become a great manager, for now he is still learning the trade. Two like for like substitutions and a wasted one at the end on Aaron Nemane, slow tactical reactions and just poor set-up abound in this match. I genuinely like Murty, but we cannot and do not have the luxury of developing a manager right now.

Throughout this season we tended to have won despite our tactics – not because of them. I have spoken previously on why trying to create opportunities out of crosses is a bad strategy – especially with Alfredo Morelos (1.77m) and Kenny Miller (1.78m). They aren’t tiny but the majority of Scottish centre backs are taller and stronger. For example, Hamilton centre back Gogic is 1.85m. Our tactical weakness extended further into this game:

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First off, well played to Martin Canning. No one was expecting Hamilton to come to Ibrox and put us under pressure. That’s seven Hamilton players in our half, looking to force the error as we try play it short. Initially we couldn’t handle it and lost possession a lot. Then we sorted it out after realising there’s an easy way to deal with a full pitch press. Play it long. Football tactics are not hard.

An accurate long ball beats seven of their players. Jason Holt should be further up the pitch. Where is Ryan Jack? Miller should be behind Morelos. Not in front of him. This is the slow tactical reaction by Murty. We can realise that we should be playing it long – but the formation needs to change as well. If you’re playing it long, you need to knock it down to someone. Miller vs two Hamilton players won’t win it. Why keep Josh Windass and Daniel Candeias so wide in this scenario? The majority of times Morelos lost the ball was through knock downs – and it wasn’t his fault. No one is helping him. The manager needs to set up the team better.

An Unclear Story

The possession statistics in this case don’t actually reveal a lot:

They are not particularly terrible. Again, James Tavernier’s passing accuracy could be better but he is the most positive passer on the team, making more forward passes than anyone else. Danny Wilson was actually quite bad – and there is a fundamental inability to make a tackle by him, he could not win the ball off a Hamilton player. I think it is in the best interests of everyone to drop him for a while again. An able deputy, but we should focus on Bruno Alves (granted that rumours are only rumours, about him).

Miller was anonymous, but he tends to be. He’s had a poor season, as one would expect. Though he did still contribute a lot productively as we shall see in xGC. Candeias whipped a lot of pointless crosses in. That was the most bizarre thing – again, we had 53 crosses whipped in and, by that point, surely it is clear that that tactic is not a good one? That sits with Murty as well. That brings me back to his two substitutions, which were appalling in my opinion. Morelos, since his dip in form, has dropped deep and been very good at building attacks. So much so that Miller is now an afterthought – Morelos is simply better at it. So we had two strikers on, doing the same job of dropping deep.

This left us without a focal point. Murty’s resolution to this situation was to take both of them off at 72 minutes and bring on Eduardo Herrera and Ryan Hardie. They are both end-product strikers. They lack the grace and finesse on the ball. They were completely isolated up front and did almost nothing while on the pitch. And yes, I would expect more from Herrera but again – our tactics aren’t helping our players.

So if the tactics aren’t working, why change the players and not the tactics? If Herrera and Hardie are better suited to those tactics, why not start the game with them? A lot of questions for our management team to answer – because it’s also more than just Murty there.

Possession Network Maps:

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Again, I’ve just highlighted how deep our two strikers sat the entire first half, where Morelos and Miller were rarely in the box to finish off moves. We can see a clear pattern of play – the ball is being played up to Morelos. With all of those passes received, he only lost possession five times in the first half. An impressive ratio, especially when the majority of these are long balls. The issue was the tactics did not support him, and that when he’s building up an attack, it needs to build up to somewhere, and Miller was not acting as an outlet.

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This time I’ve highlighted that region because, well, compared to the first half, look at the complete dearth of connections. In the first half there were six connections made between our four most attacking players. In the second, only one. There is also a lack of ideas, and at one point in the second half we did the Foderingham -> Wilson -> Hodson -> Windass move three times in a row. It was not working. We needed variety, creativity. Answers. Murty, unfortunately, does not have the experience to answer those questions.

Mentality

An issue we have struggled with all season. Pedro (now infamously) said he had five leaders on the pitch at all times. Right now, we look like we have none. We became frantic and lost all sense of direction, formation, tactic. Genuinely I would now look at making Tavernier captain because he was calming down players. There were about three times where we put out the ball just from being too on edge – each time he was talking to people, being vocal. Miller was anonymous. We weren’t bullied (at least) but there’s a complete lack of cajones in this team which needs to be resolved. A good example of headless chicken play is this corner:

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A complete miscommunication meant that three players ran short and we took a corner into two of our players in the box. Against their seven. It’s shambolic. This club is in dire need of a figurehead to drag them forwards. Again, I believe we have a very good squad. They are just so downtrodden and scared. I don’t think Ibrox is helping this season. It’s a vicious cycle where they are scared to make mistakes and draw the fans ire – thereby ensuring they make mistakes. And so on and so on. We need a manager who will defend the players. It’s easy to lay into the players and kick them when they’re down. Hodson was often out of position.

Bearing in mind the majority of our conceded goals come from crosses whipped in from the left full-back position, to let that through is criminal. Windass was booed off the pitch despite being the far-and-away best player of the first half. Probably second best of the second half. The issue is that he takes so many shots when he’s so bad at it. He put Morelos through on goal twice and made a great establishing pass (the one before the ‘assist’ pass), all in the first half. It’s not his fault Morelos’ luck is dead in the water.

Where often, so often, Miller’s positioning and runs were the same as earlier in the season. Three seconds too late and the opportunity was lost. McCrorie had naïve positioning and was often drawn too narrow and then overlapped by an attacker. He made a shocking pass that led to their goal. 

Jack was positionally switched off, moving between being a third centre back (when we were a goal down) to a defensive midfielder and yet was not situationally aware enough.

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The counter attack goal should never happen if we have a defensive midfielder. Though why we have a defensive midfielder at home, a goal down, to Hamilton is beyond me in the first place.

In the end, we just didn’t look like we wanted it. I get the feeling that we took the international break too easy, had a 'it’s only Hamilton’ mentality and were beaten because they had more fight. They won more second balls. When they ran at our defence, they held onto the ball. We were a bit precious and lost it.

xGC (Expected Goal Chain)

As an indicator as to who is contributing the most to our attacks:

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Morelos is in red because a score like that, with no goals, indicates some serious profligacy. Another player whose head needs to be straightened out. Fans forget he is only 21 in a foreign country and his early form has tanked badly. We need to lift him, and the rest of them, out of this rut. Hardie and Herrera’s scores are indicative of how they came on and barely got anything. There was no support, no build up. A waste. 

Windass did very well, and while Miller didn’t do much, what he did was very efficient. To be honest we should have won this game. Replay this game a thousand times and we would have won it every single time. The difference wasn’t luck – it was confidence.

Conclusion

It was a shameful result. And right now, things seem a bit bleak and rudderless. We need a manager to come in now and steer this ship. I genuinely don’t know if the man we need exists. At the same time – I may be wildly underestimating it – but I do not think tactics against Hamilton should be that difficult. We should go into every game now with a Plan A, B and C. Maybe even a Plan Z as a last-ditch hurrah. Because now we’re onto our third straight manager who doesn’t look like he knows how to change the game when things aren’t going in our favour. That’s worrying. Then again, this is all pretty worrying. Away at Dundee on Friday, in what should be a stroll in the park.

Nothing seems sure anymore.