Revealed! The key traits that can help Rangers replicate opening day win over Aberdeen on Sunday

As far as statements of intent go, a solid 1-0 win over Aberdeen was about as impressive a start as Rangers could have wished to make this season.
Steven Gerrard. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)Steven Gerrard. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Steven Gerrard. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Dons recruited well over the summer, and have since proven the quality that Derek McInnes has managed to assemble at Pittodrie with a number of eye-catching performances this term, but back at the beginning of August, it was a solitary Ryan Kent strike that handed the Gers all three points.

From that bright opening onwards, Steven Gerrard's men have barely put a foot wrong. Rangers are still unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership, and their 100% record has only been scuppered by draws against Livingston and Hibernian.

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Still, even with such a promising run of form behind them, Gerrard will be acutely aware of how alert his side will have to be when they play host to the Dons on Sunday afternoon.

For their part, Aberdeen are third in the table, and have only lost one other match since that opening day defeat to the Gers.

But the Ibrox boss will take heart from the comprehensive nature of his side’s last showing against Sunday’s opposition, and there are certainly aspects of that performance that he will be eager to replicate.

Aberdeen were restricted to just four shots back in August, with none on target.

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In large part, that was due to Rangers’ preemptive style of defending. The Gers made 35 interceptions in that game – more than their current season average – and backed it up with 17 clearances.

To contextualise that second figure, Aberdeen made six clearances fewer despite coming up against a side who had 20.52% more of the ball.

The reasons for that are two-fold.

In a defensive sense, Rangers put a great amount of emphasis on cutting out any kind of promising attack before it was given a chance to develop. As such, McInnes’ men were pressured into going long more often, so much so that they played 6% more long passes than the Gers, and the effectiveness of Gerrard’s approach was reflected in the amount of successful clearances his side made.

The second reason why Aberdeen made fewer clearances was predominantly due to the way that Rangers set out on the front foot.

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As mentioned prior, Rangers dominated possession at Pittodrie – a sight we have become accustomed to this season.

On average, the Gers have registered almost 31% more possession per 90 minutes than their opponents this term, and the opening day performance against Aberdeen was the first real glimpse we got of the patient, almost attritional blueprint that has served Gerrard’s so well this season.

Rangers made 209 passes more than Aberdeen in that match, but made seven long passes fewer. Likewise, they made more passes per attacking action, recording 11.03 to the hosts’ 8.17.

Essentially, the Gers made a concerted effort to build their attacks with flurries of short, sharp passes, before eventually picking off the Dons in the final third.

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The likelihood is that Rangers will try to follow that approach again on Sunday. After all, Gerrard will see no reason to change a winning formula, and for all of their positive output this season, Aberdeen are still averaging less possession in the Scottish Premiership than their opponents.

That should, theoretically, afford hosts the opportunity to dictate the direction and tempo of the game at Ibrox, and if they can couple that with a dominant aerial display from Connor Goldson and whoever partners him at the back – whether it be Filip Helander or Leon Balogun – the Glaswegian side will be confident that they have enough to eek out a result from one of their tougher domestic tests this term.