“THAT first-half performance will take us where we want to get to.”

Steven Gerrard believed the “level we’ve been searching for” was present for 45 minutes against Hearts on Saturday. 

The elusive '90-minute performance' was only half delivered. 

However, while largely buried under a barrage of frustration,there were some positives to extract from Rangers’ draw with Hearts on Saturday. 

To take just one of the plethora of chances they created and lose a game is rare. The xG was 3.86 to 0.92 in the home side's favour.

Equally, having fallen on the right side of thin margins away at St Johnstone and Dundee, warning shots had already been issued. There was no getting away with one on this occasion. 

Most in attendance at Ibrox would have agreed upon the half-time whistle that it was the strongest half of the season so far.

As detailed in The Rangers Review’s match analysis, the hosts should have been three goals up by the time Craig Halkett spun away in celebration.

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Throughout the game they created many opportunities as well as a number of ‘nearly’ moments from promising positions.

The aggressive 4-2-3-1 deployed by Gerrard, matched with a tempo and intensity from the start so vacant this season, was behind the game's one-sided nature.

That - alongside inviting the Hearts press, thus creating space to play into - allowed quick attacking transitions that merited greater reward.

As covered previously, the midfield evolution under Gerrard has seen creativity partnered with functionality

Against packed defences, the inclusion of third-man runs from midfield, the guile of Joe Aribo more advanced on the left or forward passing provided by Ianis Hagi often makes the difference. 

A formation is more definable without the ball as, in possession, the side is more defined by their 'style' than 'system'.

Borussia Dortmund assistant manager Rene Marc explained the reasoning behind this method at the weekend.

The Ibrox outfit's shape was visibly not the 4-3-3 block supporters are used to seeing. Traditionally, one of Hagi or Aribo would join John Lundstram and Glen Kamara to form a three-man midfield.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

It was the inclusion of three number 10s instead of the two normally fielded that helped to make a difference with and without the ball.

One of the advantages afforded by pushing Aribo further forward was that the hosts could create central overloads in transition.

READ MORE: Should Rangers have sold Alfredo Morelos to Lille when they had the chance? He is the conundrum club can't seem to solve - Garry Carmody

Gerrard knew outnumbering the Hearts two-man midfield was viable, with either full-back occupying the wing-backs and Alfredo Morelos taking a centre-back with him wherever he went.

Connor Goldson here plays a superb ball through the lines which takes five opponents out of the game.

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A neat flick from Aribo relays the ball to Hagi, who returned the favour. Aribo is then able to slip in Morelos.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

The inclusion of an extra number 10 here means Scott Wright can maintain width from the left while Hagi drifts right to create the numerical supremacy. 

The trend of Hagi drifting over to the right creates another chance soon after.

Morelos manages to keep a move alive by pressurising Craig Halkett. His clearance under pressure can only reach Tavernier.

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Tavernier lays in Hagi, who finds Aribo before running beyond the Hearts midfield. Aribo then sets the ball back to Kamara. Rangers Review:

Notice the positioning of Wright in the above shot. This time he has moved towards the bodies to combine with Hagi instead of retaining width, recognising the chance is there to compliment Hagi's untracked run.

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The Romanian works an excellent position but snatches at his shot.

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Counterpressing also created chances - aided by an extra man in the first line of pressure.

READ MORE: What Rangers must learn from Liverpool throw-in coach to stop wasteful 'worst advice' strategy

In the lead up to this Wright interception, Hagi marshalls Beni Baningime. Meaning the front three can press man-for-man on Hearts' centre-backs.

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Wright drives infield before Aribo feeds Morelos. The Colombian went close with a left-footed effort.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

In the below frame Lundstram, Morelos and Hagi are highlighted. The red circle signifies where the third midfielder would hypothetically be, if a 4-2-3-1 wasn't played.

Beacuse Hagi starts high, Rangers can outnumber the two-man opposing midfield again to progress through the centre.

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Wright and Aribo are stationed in either half-space - which eventually leads to Tavernier receiving in space.

This type of slick, attacking play was all made possible by the move away from a three-man midfield without the ball.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

By the time the game restarted it should have been over as a contest. 

Hagi moves out to the right in this example as Aribo drives centrally. His ball to Wright was a fraction too late and the move petered out.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

The draw doesn't signify the difficulty Robbie Neilson's side had trying to negate this threat. Until a drop in tempo and the subsequent substitution of all three players, this match was entirely one-sided.

With Morelos' functionality dropping deep and facing a five-man defence, Gerrard got his tactical approach spot on.

Instead of favouring a more combative three-man midfield, he was intentional.

The three 10s gave energy without the ball and constantly arrived in pockets of space with it - they created enough to win more than one game of football.