In the previous post I went through an introduction of what this series will contain, so let’s get to business. Before I get into too much detail, I will explain what our board expected of us. Promotion via winning the league title was a must and this would be our main aim to get the club back where they belong, semi final finishes were requested in both the League cup and Scottish cup and they didn’t care about the Challenge cup.
For anyone not sure, the Challenge cup is a cup competition involving all teams not in the top flight and embarrassingly it is a trophy Rangers have not won in the previous three seasons, so although the board didn’t care it was a trophy I wanted to win to put things right.
As I mentioned the board were only willing to give me £500k for a transfer budget and £8k p/w spare to spend on wages and with my philosophy of working with young talented players this left me with decisions to make. We were in my opinion light up front which I expect most Rangers fans irl would agree with so I brought in Jason Cummings from Hibs for a very reasonable £250k and he started the season in incredible form scoring 10 goals in 11 starts however a poor run of form from there and then a broken foot (long term injury) stalled him from having a fantastic season.
So with the finances not quite being there but wanting additional midfield talents I went for Harry Winks and Jordan Rossiter on loans from Tottenham and Liverpool respectively – the loan deal for Rossiter was essentially to replicate our signing irl however Liverpool want a ridiculous amount to sell and he became our main deep lying playmaker in defensive midfield.
Harry Winks came in to give competition in the centre midfield with him often rotating with fellow loanee Gedion Zelalem and he had a very good season. 14 passing and 13 technique attributes and a 3.5 star player with ability to reach 4.5 stars showed the use of our explotation of the loan market.
I also scouted Scandinavia due to the lucrative bargains that can be found and although my scout is awful he did find me a classy 18 year old winger Mikkel Duelund who signed on a two season loan deal, we don’t pay any fee or any wages during this time so it is basically a free player however he does have a £1.5 million release clause so something we can maybe do there. He has a 3.5 star current ability but could be a 5 star potential player and has 15 for dribbling and 14 for technique.
Ryan Gauld came in on loan as soon as I was alerted that he was available on a loan, he has been called the Scottish Messi in the past while that may be a bit far he is the most exciting Scottish talent about. Again we were able to secure his services until the end of the season without paying any fee or wages to Sporting – A current ability of 4 stars and potential to reach 5 stars potential, first touch of 14, vision and technqiue at 16 he would be perfect as my advanced playmaker.
On the last day of the window I also secured the loan services (again, yes) of former Hearts defender Jordan Mcghee until the end of the season, he was brought in for a number of reasons, cost, flexibility to play across the back line if required and would add competition at centre back for Kiernan who was making some mistakes.With heading of 12, marking 13 and positioning he was already a solid centre back for this level.
On the outgoing front, we let Nicky Law go for £40k as he wasn’t useful to us and I wanted him off the wage bill, Polish keeper Macej Gostomski left for similar reasons and the fact that young wonderkid Robby McCrorie being moved to number 2 there is no room for him and at £4k p/w I needed rid.
Tactical set up
For the past 2 FM releases I have favoured a 2-3-2-3 tiki taka system based on Pep Guardiola’s tenure at Barcelona, it was the best football I have ever seen and was mesmerised by that great Barca side and attempting to re-create this in FM is always great to watch as the team plays beautiful football. A small admission here would be I have attempted my own systems trying to emulate however twitter handle – @Passion4FM tactic and analysis is so good that I have just copied his tactic which is available here – http://www.passion4fm.com/football-manager-barcelona-tiki-taka-tactics-emulating-pep-guardiolas-positional-play/.
We obviously play a high line and at times we have been caught out this season due to the high defensive block, it condenses play very well but long balls over the top are a slight issue with the current centre backs not being the fastest and it is something I will want to improve on long term to bring in a fast centre back to partner Danny Wilson, I think as he has been the much better performer compared to Kiernan.
We regularly get over 600 attempted passes per game, usually double the opponents with possession regularly in the mid to high 60% showing how dominant we are and usually do create 3 or more clear cut chances per game and around 16-25 shots per game while often restricting the opponents to few chances, only not successful when teams attempt to launch balls over the top to a fast striker.
As you can see we were dominant in the first half of the league season and had notched 49 goals in 23 games, conceding just 8 goals and had an unbeaten record to this point, failing to record wins on six occasions where we settled for draws. We started the season with three consecutive wins starting with a comfortable 3-1 win over St Mirren to mirror what happened irl.
Then we thrashed a poor Alloa side 5-0 with Waghorn getting a hatrick and Cummings getting on the scoresheet although we did lose the talented Barrie Mckay for four months due to a damaged achilles tendon, we followed this with a big 1-0 win over Hibs who I expected to be our closest challengers – maybe not.
Next followed a poor spell where we picked up just 1 win in 3 games, the draw to Queen of the South was a joke as we battered their goal with 25 shots but couldn’t get the second goal, a strong 2-1 win over Raith at Ibrox was vital as they were top at this stage with a double from Michael O’Halloran scoring in the 87th minute to win the game after we lost a goal after 25 seconds.
A 0-0 draw to Livingston despite us having 16-4 shots in our favour followed however we then clicked and went on to win 5 league games in a row scoring 14 times and losing just one goal with the 4-1 away win over Morton being our best display as we were starting to dominate more and controlled it with a Waghorn double,Cummings and O’Halloran with the goals.
A trip to Easter road in October resulted in a poor 0-0 draw, we had the slightly better of the game but I couldn’t complain too much, however as we do we bounced back in style with 7 league games consecutively won conceding just twice in this period and scoring 20 goals. We hit Alloa for 5 again in a solid 5-0 win and a 3-0 victory over Hibernian at Ibrox gave us the revenge we wished for with goals coming from classy inside forward Mikkel Duelund and double from Ryan Hardie who was starting to become prolific in the absence of striker Jason Cummings.
From the free flowing football the next 4 games were anything but and was our worst spell of the season, we drew 3 games out of four and the win was only a unconvincing 1-0 win over struggling Morton, Livi were becoming a bogey team despite being average and not scoring against Dumbarton was worrying to say the least despite controlling the game.
Well, this is a stunning run isn’t it? It can’t get much better than defeating Aberdeen, Dundee United and our biggest rival Celtic in the run to the final can it..
Starting the competition against Elgin we comfortably dispatched them however we then came against our strongest league challengers Raith Rovers who we were able to defeat 3-1 thanks to goals from Cummings, Waghorn and Duelund.
The tie against Aberdeen was surely one for the neutral with Aberdeen taking an unjust lead in the 58th minute through Cammy Smith we battled away and I made tactical tweaks going overload and throwing 3 up front with a shadow striker behind and it paid off in injury time as a corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble before it went in via an Aberdeen player attempted block. We started the brighter in extra time and duly took the lead through Cummings however Cammy Smith scored again.
Not to be outdone straight from kick off we went up the pitch and a great switch from Cummings to Billy King and the volley whistled into the back of the net, we’re on track for the win until Nial McGinn scores from the dreaded back post cross goal. We are victorious 6-5 on penalties despite missing three penalties, what a game.
We then beat Dundee United in extra time through a goal for inside forward Mikkel Duelund in the 105th minute in a deserved win before the big game against Celtic, personally I thought this was a step too far for us however we were the better team in general and the big talking point was a straight red card for Scott Brown for a disgusting lunge on Ryan Gauld, who gets up and scores a minute later with a clinical strike from 15 yards out to send us to the final and send the support wild.
We have only played one team due to the Scottish cup starting so late however this resulted in a tie versus Turrif United, aye who? Well, we couldn’t beat them at Ibrox and were about to crash out before Hardie took it upon himself to run through their whole team before smashing one into the top corner to secure a 2-2 draw, we beat them 2-0 away but not too convincing overall, we will play Hibernian in the next round.
Four wins, four clean sheets and in all honesty there isn’t much to talk about as we have done what I would have expected against this calibre of opposition, without being disrespectful. We face Hibernian in the final, let’s hope for football in general whoever wins this that the “exuberance” is kept to a minimum..
Going into Second half of season
Going into the second half of the season, my aims are to increase our lead at the top of the table, try and keep our unbeaten season going as long as possible and clinching a quadruple is a possibility this season. The only way I can get european football next season would be by winning the Scottish cup so that is an aim also but we have a long way to go in that competition.
I’m going to aim for roughly an update every week to 10 days and the updates will be split into half season and full season updates.
I hope you enjoyed reading and any feedback will be appreciated in the comments section or you can interact with me on twitter, I’m @johnmcintosh19.