AN article on the structure of throw-ins? You could perhaps accuse The Rangers Review of reaching a little too deep into the ideas box this time.

But stick with us - it’s not a case of international break brain fog.

In the past few years, the analysis of throw-ins has become more mainstream.

This season, Steven Gerrard's team are averaging 26.25 per game. Teams are realising that throw-ins merit attention and preparation. Both in the distance and technique of longer throws and the movements and rotations involved in ball retention.

Like set-pieces, patterns of play, the influence of data on scouting and video analysis – no stone is left unturned as teams seek to squeeze every last drop of advantage in football.

The Rangers Review has watched every throw-in the team has taken in the league this season. Here’s what they've done well, the situation's untapped potential and why they can learn from Liverpool's approach. 

Liverpool and the throw-in coach

Thomas Gronnemark rose to fame as the world’s ‘first’ throw-in coach. He now works with several European clubs including Liverpool.

But why do elite sportsmen need a specific throw-in coach? 

It feels like the type of leading question that would provoke eye-rolling from Roy Keane and Graeme Souness on Super Sunday.

“To be honest, I’d never heard about a throw-in coach,” said Jurgen Klopp when quizzed on the appointment in 2018.

“When I heard about Thomas, it was clear to me I wanted to meet him; when I met him, it was 100 per cent clear I wanted to employ him. Now he is here and we work on that from time to time.

“You cannot have enough specialists around you.”

If a throw-in coach is good enough for the manager who would subsequently win the Champions League and Premier League … you get the point.

The best person to describe the role is Gronnemark himself.

He told the BBC: "It is not just the technique of the throw, but how to receive it, how to make the right runs, the positioning, creating space."

"At the top of the league, it can help with a more fluent style of play. No matter what position in the league, throw-ins are an advantage."

Klopp told the coach in their first conversation: "We lost the ball all the time from throw-ins," reflecting on their previous campaign.

Gronnemark said speaking to Sky Sports: "With Liverpool and Ajax, the long throw-ins are not their style so I am also focusing on the fast and clever throw-ins that I first started working on in around 2007.

"That is all about possession. How can we keep possession when we are taking a throw-in under pressure?"

Throw-ins largely assist ball retention at Liverpool. According to the coach, ball retention under pressure rose over 20% during his first season working at the club to 68.4%.

Just like set-pieces, synchronized patterns of play and player movements on the pitch can afford small advantages to get ahead of the opposition. 

The role is about giving players "options" as opposed to rigid instruction. Making adjustments within a set of principles. 

In-game examples

Gronnemark focuses on three specific types of throws: Long, fast and clever.

Andy Roberston put it like this in an interview with The Atheltic: “The throws are of a better standard but the movement is also a lot better and that’s important.

"It’s about small margins. The ball goes out of play a lot, so retaining possession better from throw-ins or winning the ball back from an opponent’s throw can be crucial.

“When I first came here, we just threw it up the line and it was a 50/50 fight for it. When we get a throw-in now, everyone views it as a set piece and every set piece should be an advantage to you. We have tried to make it that, by trying to create chances from them.”

Gronnemark is not a fan of throw-ins down the line: "There is a really big risk that if you are just throwing it down the line then you are going to lose the ball.

"People have always been told to throw the ball down the line. What I would just say is that it is the worst advice that anyone can give you for a throw-in."

Bear those comments in mind for the upcoming examples of Rangers' output this season.

How does this look in practice? These analysis examples are taken from a Spielverlagerung article which can be read here.

With their opponents RB Salzburg, a notoriously high-pressing side, overloading the ball side - Liverpool switch play.

Look how one-sided Salzburg are. The space afforded to Salah and Alexander-Arnold is a deliberate tactic - very similar to that operated by Gerrard's side without the ball in Europe.

If Klopp's team just "throw the ball up the line" in this scenario they're massively outnumbered. They instead use the break in play to stretch their opponents.

Notice how wide Salah and Alexander-Arnold remain. Intentionally not getting sucked into the play - which shows the subsequent switch is from a variation of a throw-in routine.

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Roberto Firmino drops down a line and Robertson takes a step back upon releasing his throw. This allows him to step onto the ball, see his starting position between the two frames, as it's returned and switch play.

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In a match last year against Wolves this routine was on show again. Instead of tossing the ball up the line for a 50/50 - Liverpool move play to where the space is.

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Again, it's a front player who drops down a line to overload and receives - on this occasion Sadio Mane. A rotation grants him the room to return the ball to Robertson.

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By practising these routines and variations, possession can be retained and advantages gained. 

Having set the scene - let’s look at how Rangers are performing from these areas this season.

READ MORE: The Malmo throw-in echo that bamboozled Rangers analysed - Joshua Barrie

How are Rangers' ‘throwing in'?

Gerrard recently spoke about his team playing with ‘multiballs’ at Ibrox, a technique employed so the game can always be quickly restarted.

As Robertson suggests above, retaining tempo when the ball goes out of play is of fundamental importance to the side chasing a goal.

Breaking a team down is often as much about pinning them in as opening them up.

In the Scottish Premiership this season Gerrard’s team have taken 210 throw-ins. 

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They have a retention rate from these throw-ins of 62% - roughly they lose possession four out of ten times from throw-in scenarios. Including both pressurised and non-pressurised situations.

What have they done well and how must they improve?

On opening day against Livingston, they exploited the visitor's overload well.

Calvin Bassey takes a throw-in here – Livingston has an extra man infield presumably to try and force Rangers down the line.

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But Bassey uses Aribo to bounce possession before picking out Connor Goldson – the defender swivels his hips to open the pitch. 

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Rangers suddenly have James Tavernier in an offensive position with space to attack. Their opponents are out of shape. 

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Another good example of inviting pressure and switching play occurs soon after. Steven Davis manages to turn Craig Sibbald from Bassey's throw.

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He switches play into Goldson – again notice the room on the Rangers right because Livingston has overloaded the left.

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Tavernier is picked out in space to drive his team forwards. This is an excellent example like the above of how simple throw-in routines can lead to ball progression.

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Just as Rangers have recognisable attacking rhythms in the final third and patterns of play from goal-kicks - these moves look preordained.

Such routines have been lacking in the league since that match. Coinciding with poorer performances across the board.

The Ibrox side has tended to do one of two things when the ball goes out for a throw-in. Either the ball goes back to the defence who are unmarked or it is played up the line. Which Gronnemark branded "a big risk" above.

In this example, there is an opportunity to switch play quickly – due to St Johnstone's set-up.

Bassey instead uses the safe option of his centre-backs. Notice how much tighter Tavernier is to the ball side compared to the Liverpool examples above.

If he instead draws wide he will either be in acres of space or pull a St Johnstone player away from the congested ball side.

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It must be added - Tavernier's is likely stationed to protect against counterattacks in this phase. That in itself shows a quick switch of play from the throw-in isn't the plan.

If the ball doesn't go backwards this term it has tended to go up the line. Although there is clearly an intention to play off of Alfredo Morelos' physicality - it often results in possession turning over.

Here, most of the Dundee United team is overloading aggressively. As shown in the Liverpool examples above, theoretically Barisic could use Kamara to bounce possession before switching play. There is the space to do so.

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Instead, a long ball sees Morelos lose possession with a header.

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These throws towards Morelos were a regular theme in the 1-0 Old Firm win as well.

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The lack of balls to feet was a tactic perhaps aimed at negating the Celtic press. However, possession was surrendered far too often via 'risky' 50/50 throw-ins up the line.

Instead of using Davis in a mirror image of the match at Tannadice above - Barisic goes long and loses the ball.

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Using a tactic repetitively which creates '50/50' scenarios is surely counteractive. At McDiarmid Park, there is an opportunity for Davis to spin inside and bounce possession. 

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Bassey goes long instead due to a lack of movement and predictably gives up control. 

As Robertson suggested, the movement is as important as the throw.

Just a few seconds later with the backline squeezing up, Michael O’Halloran is inches from being onside and running through on goal.

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In these scenarios, there must be greater intention than to find the last man and play for territory.

The lack of structure in a frantic game state towards the end of the match was also evident against Motherwell.

READ MORE: Rangers' long ball vulnerability and the aggression drop that's causing it - Joshua Barrie

Barisic launches the ball for a 50/50 late in the game  – when a far better option would be to pick out Scott Arfield who has a direct line to Tavernier. Possession turns over.

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Similarly against Dundee, Kamara is free centrally. But instead of a ball across, a throw is flung towards Morelos who commits a foul trying to retain it.

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Later in the same game, the opposition is overloaded. The opportunity is there to move Dundee as Rangers did Livingston. But a long ball up the flank is favoured over Kamara being picked out for a switch of play to occur.

Possession as you may have guessed turns over.

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When Rangers do utilise synchronized movements to create space it can open up the pitch. As they did above on the opening day of the season.

Here, John Lundstram pulls Paul McMullan away to allow Kamara the chance to gain possession centrally.

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There is plenty of room for the 25-year-old to drive into - because the opposition has set-up to defend a ball down the line.

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This type of routine must be completed far more regularly. Rangers must view a throw-in as a set piece from which they can take advantage of the opposition. 

Can you imagine if corners and free-kicks featured a lack of routine and organisation?

Instead, the attackers and taker have a pre-agreed idea of where the delivery will land in each routine - which gives them an advantage over the opposition who of course do not.

There is the intention from Rangers to utilise Morelos' strength from throw-ins - as well as Joe Aribo who often acts as the target.

But a review of the way opponents overload and set-up in these scenarios demonstrate that full advantage is not being taken. 

Instead of always targeting Morelos high - Rangers should encourage him to drop down a line and overload more often as he does in open play.

Just as Gerrard's team aim to always stretch and 'own the pitch' in possession, they should ask questions of every opponent who overloads and leaves a side free from throw-ins.

Consistency in this area will keep the Ibrox outfit a step ahead of the opposition in every phase of play.