ALONGSIDE unshackling the attack, Giovanni van Bronckhorst has helped Rangers to rediscover their defensive solidity during the early stages of his spell in Glasgow.

He inherited a squad that was developing a perennial soft underbelly, taking only 13 league games to concede as many goals this term as they did in the entirety of their previous league campaign.

The tactical blueprint which had made a record-setting defensive season possible became predictable before Steven Gerrard's departure and Rangers were concerningly susceptible to long balls, vertical runs and width. Not only this, disorganisation at set-pieces had caused the concession of goals against Motherwell, Hearts and Aberdeen.

Van Bronckhorst has used new methods to recover the team's previous strength out of possession. His team have continued to play in a broadly-defined 4-3-3, however players' individual instructions differentiate from Gerrard's era.

"Steven Gerrard also played 4-3-3, but if you see our matches, it is clear that we operate significantly differently in a number of positions,” van Bronckhorst told De Telegraaf recently.

Gerrard and Michael Beale deployed a tactical system that required wide centre-midfielders to pressurise opposing full-backs in order to keep attackers in dangerous areas. The idea being that the likes of Ryan Kent and Kemar Roofe could impact the game more effectively without the restraint of defensive responsibility in their own half, while still contributing defensively by blocking central passing lanes and making Rangers difficult to play through.

The new regime has scrapped that tactic and traded one form of compactness for another, asking wingers to track back and allowing the midfield to remain more central out of possession.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

This allows midfielders greater dominion of central zones and results in the full-backs, both of whom are now complimenting attacks instead of leading them, appearing less vulnerable to wide overloads and switches of play. 

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Most pertinently, opposition managers are being forced to uncover new ways to hurt the champions while adapting to the fresh offensive threats they're also posed.

Despite assuming control during the trickiest run of fixtures of the season to date, van Bronckhorst has witnessed an upturn in his team's defensive numbers due to these factors. Rangers have only let in one goal during his seven league fixtures to date, thanks to their xG conceded drop from 0.69 to 0.56 and a revitalised Allan McGregor

Comparison of the team’s Scottish Premiership defensive radar before and after the Dutchman's appointment gives further evidence of improvement.

Rangers Review: Rangers' defensive output in Scottish Premiership matches under Steven Gerrard (21/22).Rangers' defensive output in Scottish Premiership matches under Steven Gerrard (21/22).

Rangers Review: Rangers' defensive output in Scottish Premiership matches under Giovanni van Bronckhorst (21/22).Rangers' defensive output in Scottish Premiership matches under Giovanni van Bronckhorst (21/22).

The 'significant changes' that have been introduced by the new regime has seen the number of shots conceded at counterattacks decrease by more than half, while the quality of chances opponents are creating from set-pieces has dropped from 0.23 to 0.09xG.

A high line in possession allows the defence to retain pressure on the opposition when attacks break down and the defensive distance rise suggests attacks are being stopped at source more frequently, as seen to the extreme against St Mirren and St Johnstone.

The remnants of trips east are notable, with a higher opposition passing percentage and PPDA the result of tricky away trips against Hibs, Hearts and Livingston.

Opposition passing percentage can be a useful metric with which to measure a side’s pressing intensity. A high completion percentage would show a team was able to play out from defence comfortably, while a low number would reveal they were more hurried in possession.

The increase in this area along with PPDA, which measures the passes a team allows the opponent before making a defensive action, is evidence of a continuing comfort to absorb pressure, conserve energy and create space to counterattack into.

In a relatively small sample size, the trip to Tynecastle particularly skews the overall numbers. Van Bronckhorst's side sat deep, pressed sparingly and at times relied on their goalkeeper having established an early lead, resulting in Hearts' recording an above-average passing accuracy.

Rangers Review: Rangers' defensive output against Hearts (12/12/21).Rangers' defensive output against Hearts (12/12/21).

The 'new manager bounce' is one of football's great cliches and its legitimacy is debatable, but van Bronckhorst's changes to the defensive structure he inherited have undoubtedly caused an upturn. Realigned roles are allowing the Ibrox side to reclaim their steel out of possession, providing their previously-established platform to dominate matches.