Rangers’ indifferent start to the season continued last weekend with the 2-1 loss at Pittodrie last weekend leaving Mark Warburton’s side closer to bottom of the Premiership than the top. Partick Thistle make the short trip to Ibrox this weekend and the Jags will be hoping to take something from their hosts and lift themselves from the foot of the table but how should Rangers line-up as they look to kick-start their season?
Despite having a big share of the responsibility for Aberdeen’s opener last weekend, James Tavernier has been the most consistent performer in the Gers rearguard. On the opposite flank, captain Lee Wallace has struggled to provide as potent an attacking option as he did last season and was ably-deputised by Lee Hodson in the recent Betfred Cup win over Queen of the South. Hodson should push Wallace and Tavernier on a little and offers something a little bit different at full-back.
Centrally, Danny Wilson and Clint Hill had a solid enough game against Aberdeen, although like Tavernier they left much to be desired in the build-up to the opening goal, and might start again together this weekend. Rob Kiernan and Philippe Senderos had a run-out in the abandoned Development League fixture with Hibs in midweek as both look to regain their first team place. In an interview with Rangers’ official website, Mark Warburton had praise for the partnership of Hill and Wilson, hinting they will start again this weekend.
Warburton said: “In defence we could have a variety of starting combinations but the fact is Clint and Danny have done very well.
“Clint has shown a real resilience to his play and is full of experience while Danny is adapting to being on the right side for us.
Getting the midfield trio has been the biggest issue for Rangers so far this season and, thanks to a variety of issues, Warburton has yet to have all of his midfielders available at the same time. The suspension of Joey Barton, poor form of Niko Kranjcar, injury to Jordan Rossiter and a series of impressive performances have all played a part in Andy Halliday becoming one of the first names on the team-sheet. Since moving back into the position he made his own last season, Halliday has grabbed a couple of goals and looked more like the player he was last season. The return of Jason Holt from injury and the emergence of Josh Windass as a vital player to Warburton’s plans have contributed to Halliday’s return to form and he has been one of the more consistent performers in the middle of the park but he’ll likely face a serious fight for his place when Rossiter returns from injury.
Although Warburton has used Josh Windass, Niko Kranjcar and Harry Forrester in the middle, assuming he is fit after recent injury troubles, Josh Windass should partner Halliday and Holt on Saturday. Kranjcar and Forrester can, sometimes, struggle to influence the game when played there and the dynamism of Windass, Holt and Halliday looks to suit Rangers’ style of play a bit better. With Barrie McKay struggling for form Forrester or Kranjcar could, perhaps, be deployed further forward and allowed to drift inside to play off the central striker. Both have the technical ability to provide that moment of genius that can unlock a defence and could help Rangers’ get over their struggles in breaking teams down. If it’s not Holt, Halliday and Windass in midfield it will be Holt, Halliday and Forrester.
Like than the aforementioned McKay, none of Rangers forwards have hit any real run of form yet. Martyn Waghorn had started the season well enough before being injured in the Hamilton game and missing a few weeks. Joe Garner has had a decent start to his Ibrox career, even if results haven’t been too good, and look like he will be the player the front three is built around. Waghorn and Barrie McKay look to be the two preferred picks wide although Joe Dodoo, Kenny Miller and Michael O’Halloran and Harry Forrester were all mentioned by the manager as options there. Waghorn, Garner and McKay will likely start but there are plenty other options available to Warburton should he want to change it.
Rangers really need a win against the Jags to get their season going and a big win could be the lift the players are needing. Performances have been improving but results are key and dropped points before a two-week international break could make for an uncomfortable few weeks for Warburton and his players.
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