“I like some stability in the team but I like a lot of rotation, I like the team to almost have a hybrid formation – not a set formation.”

“I’m not too about ‘do you play 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1’ – you play what suits your players.

“You defend in a certain way, you attack in a different way and one player being injured and another coming in can change everything. Or just give you that lovely variety that you need.”

Listening to Michael Beale talk is an education for anyone with an interest in football.

The 41-year-old has, alongside Steven Gerrard and the rest of the coaching staff, implemented and evolved a successful tactical blueprint at Ibrox. 

His recent comments on the Locker Room podcast discussing his philosophy and tactical variation are of specific interest given remarks made by Gerrard in pre-season.

The manager told Rangers TV he needed variation as "some teams and some managers” would try to stop their system given they had “seen it for some years now.”

In hindsight, it seems as though this was perhaps directed at playing James Tavernier and Nathan Patterson in the same team – and therefore killing two birds with one stone. 

Gerrard’s prediction looked to have played out in colour with a slower than anticipated start to this campaign. Undoubtedly Covid, injuries and a lack of consistent selection have impacted the tempo and aggression so crucial to his team's offensive mid-block.

However, Beale’s comments on the topic reframes the focus of the conversation on the overall style in place instead of on-pitch systems. It’s evident that for Beale, this team plays within a ‘style’ that is regularly tweaked and not a set formation.

This is why achieving greater variety is far more complex than simply lining up in a 3-4-3 as opposed to a 4-3-3. 

Rangers of course undeniably have a hybrid set-up. Compare the below two graphics from a home and away game with Hibs last season as proof.

A rigid 4-3-3 was utilised in a 1-0 victory at Easter Road that featured midfielder’s covering for full-backs and Joe Aribo bolstering the midfield from the front three.

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In the home reverse, the same ‘4-3-3’ formation became a 4-2-4. Aribo's positioning in the right half-space allowed Morelos to partner Kemar Roofe centrally.

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Using similar personnel the shape mirrored more of a 4-2-3-1 at the weekend. Ianis Hagi played as an out and out No.10.

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Against Livingston on the opening day of the season, an asymmetrical 4-3-3 was fielded. With Aribo advanced from the left of a midfield three - not as a central No.10.

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The point being, all of these line-ups would be regarded as 'playing the same formation'. In reality, however, these are four different variables, tweaked within the overall philosophy in place at Ibrox.

READ MORE: Michael Beale's Rangers tactical philosophy in his own words

Beale’s comments fix the lens within which progression of the team's tactical variety should be viewed.

He adds: “It’s always about fuelling the individual to make the team better. Monday to Friday you train for yourself and because you make yourself better; with more clarity, faster, stronger, eat the right food, sleep – you make the team stronger at the weekend. I’m really huge on that.

“It’s always about the players - enjoying the game and influencing the game in their own way.

“A lot of players have talent, but it’s how they can implement the talent within the team. That’s why every team is different."

Viewing player development and tactical variety in the same mould makes the discussion around the team 'doing something different' more accurate.

Think of all the elements that have been added to the overall style since 2018.

Steven Davis bouncing the ball of the front line to work a defence and wait for gaps. Connor Goldson’s passing range and ability to defend high. Alfredo Morelos’ evolution to become a deep-lying forward who creates space in the opponent's defence.

Joe Aribo’s third-man runs which have led to two goals this year. Ryan Kent’s goal threat last season. The decreasing over-reliance on crosses. 

These are all examples of individual improvement making the team better. Adding greater variety and more methods to win football matches.

Improvement of course isn’t a given. The Rangers Review has written before about elements of the tactical setup being exploited or becoming repetitive. 

READ MORE: Three Rangers 'tweaks' Steven Gerrard can use to ensure tactical blueprint remains unpredictable

How different players ‘change everything’

Take James Tavernier and Nathan Patterson. The former is naturally a changed player six years on from his arrival in Glasgow and excels in crossing positions.

Patterson may have provided an assist to emulate his captain at the weekend – but the Scotland international’s offensive style is far more about one-on-one battles.

As such they offer two different variables of the right-back role. Comparison of their radars from this season's small sample size shows this.

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Hagi and Aribo are the club’s ‘hybrid’ players who can play in midfield and the front three – and they both offer differing threats.

Aribo has not yet developed that final pass Hagi has in the final third. Equally the Romanian does not pose the same one-on-one threat.

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Scott Arfield and Aribo both excelled as the advanced midfielder at different points last season.

Although The Nigerian is developing his third-man runs, the two play the position differently. Arfield’s game is all about anticipation and intelligent late runs whereas Arbio is a ball-carrying threat – excellent from box to box.

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Finally, Fil Helander and Leon Balogun cater for different approaches of defence. Balogun currently tops the interceptions per/90 table in the division – due to his ability to defend high up the pitch and anticipate danger.

Helander on the other hand is a more natural out and out defender who would be preferred in a situation closer to his goal. Their defensive activities maps from last season show this variety.

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To draw parallels, compare Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp.

Everything is built around his principles in and out of possession and individualism exists within that. Growth over his tenure has not resulted in a ‘new’ formation but new variables in a successful system.

Diogo Jota for example offers a different threat in the front three to Roberto Firmino. The purchase of Thiago was made with an intention to control certain games more from the midfield and therefore allow the side a completely new way with which to attack.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s increasing influence infield as opposed to always overlapping like Andy Robertson on the opposite flank. The return of Virgil Van Dijk this season has allowed the side to be far more dynamic defending – individual development making the collective stronger.

So, for Rangers to increasingly achieve variation it appears individualism should be the focus.

Defensive blocks can be tweaked and setups changed but the blueprint which has brought success to Govan won't be replaced with another - rather tweaked, improved and refined.

Rangers want to ‘own the ball’ in possession and ‘own the pitch’ outwith it. Cause maximum disruption to the opponent's defence and defend as they want to attack.

These principles will be in place as long as Beale and co are in the technical area at Ibrox. For the team to remain unpredictable, fresh and dynamic it is vital that components are continually added.