THE sight of James Tavernier spearheading Rangers attacks in an empty Ibrox was nothing new for the once again enforced armchair-supporter on Sunday.

Last season’s top scorer is more renowned for unsettling defences than his own role in a back four.  

However, in keeping with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s early imprints, a regular theme from previous years benefitted from new detail. The same threat in an unfamiliar disguise. 

Tavernier played infield and looked to underlap against St Mirren, instead of overlapping to cross. With Scott Wright providing width from the right.

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Van Bronckhorst's tactical variance has proved highly effective during his tenure so far. He has tinkered with various details game-upon-game. Teams don't have the foresight of Rangers' set-up as before.

“He’s coming up with different ideas that he wants to put across, it’s been detailed and personally I think it has been fantastic,” Scott Wright said of the alterations on Sunday.

So why the underlap? 

“They only play with one striker so I don’t need my full-backs to be really deep defending,” said the manager post-match.

On Sunday that meant Tavernier as highlighted attacked infield, instead of staying deeper where the red outline would have him conventionally. Thus, forcing Jamie McGrath backwards, isolating Wright wide and threatening himself by underlapping in moments.

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The underlap is difficult to track. Especially when a winger is staying as wide as Wright did on Sunday. Like third-man runs, the attacker inside the pitch can out-sprint the defender who has his back to goal.

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Further, because defences are so used to full-backs providing width and attacking wide, they’re at this point in time less equipped to combat a more nuanced movement.

This showed on Sunday. Tavernier finds Wright and then underlaps, with his cross almost finding Morelos. Notice how McGrath cannot recover to block Tavernier because his back is to goal after the ball is played wide.

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This type of movement upsets the pendulum-esque rhythm of a low block. That is comfortable defending crosses and showing play wide.

Earlier this season, The Rangers Review explained how Trent Alexander-Arnold was making similar rotations. His best asset is, like Tavernier, his delivery. However, fresh approaches to unlocking the defence keeps Liverpool’s attacks unpredictable.

In practice, these rotations against St Mirren also cleared the runway for Wright to continually go beyond Scott Tanser. Tavernier could indirectly open up room for Wright to be found in advanced areas.

A good example of how St Mirren were ill-equipped to deal with this came in the seventh minute. McGrath (highlighted in purple) must close Goldson down because, as Van Bronckhorst explained, his full-backs are ahead of the ball – this leaves Tavernier free to exploit the half-space.

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Tanser recognises this movement and slides infield. Meaning Wright can receive with space to run at the defence. Neat interplay leads to Glen Kamara being brought down in the box for a potential penalty. The underlap was the movement that resulted in the defensive structure being unsettled.

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Steven Gerrard wanted to achieve this using central overloads, keeping his attackers as close to the goal as possible. But by injecting pace in wide areas, Van Bronckhorst's wingers can beat players and move the block in an alternative fashion.

“You have to have players comfortable playing on the lines because you want to stretch them with width," the Dutchman said on Sunday.

“Scott [Wright] in that position is very good. He brought exactly what I wanted him to bring."

Tavernier increasingly came infield as time wore on - to isolate Wright out wide.

Just as Borna Barisic and Connor Goldson have done in previous games, Tavernier joins Kamara momentarily here to form a double pivot. The space is available in this location because Hagi and Aribo are playing so high.

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Look how much room Tanser is giving Wright after play is moved wide, at the fear of being beaten. He cannot stay overly tight due to Wright bursting beyond him. 

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Rangers in the past have come unstuck when teams have successfully defended crosses. Against Aberdeen last season, Tavernier can deliver from this position, but the lack of overlaps and underlaps in this system made it predictable at points.

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Against Hibs in the league cup exit, this was painfully evident. How often did Tavernier need this type of support outside or inside him? How effective would Wright's direct style have been to stretch a congested centre?

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Hibs were so comfortable defending conventionally. Rangers seriously lacked the touchline-hugging wide threats Van Bronckhorst has introduced.

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Concluding in his press conference, Van Bronckhorst explained that he analyses the opposition and decides the pitch positions his players will occupy based on the space available. 

St Mirren would have rather Tavernier stayed in front of their defensive shape and crossed. Their back five was far less comfortable when being pulled across by his inverted runs. It was another quick win for the new regime.