ALL of football’s trendsetters are constantly evolving plans and refining processes - because to stay on top you have to stay ahead.

The very best managers protect their assets over time by developing new methods to ensure an air of unpredictability, ever-increasing the weapons in their arsenal.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst has carried this healthy element of reactivity to Rangers. While the previous regime saw their tactical blueprint begin to unwind due to the predictable patterns it was starting to produce, the new team have utilised a wide array of approaches. 

James Tavernier's underlaps, the direct attacks at Tynecastle, two wingers at home to St Mirren - adaptations have been made game upon game to target opposition weaknesses and keep managers in the dark.

Far from the tired narrative that those facing the Old Firm in Scotland will purely sit in a low-block and counterattack when necessary, each team prepares meticulous game plans with differing methods. 

Before his departure, Steven Gerrard managed a number of games that saw teams recycle similar scripts - flooding the middle, defending crosses and attacking with direct verticality. 

Gerrard admitted himself in pre-season that variety was needed because “some managers will try and stop this system, they’ve seen it for a number of years now.” Continuing, he added a new formation would “keep people thinking” – conceding the benefit of an option aside from the 4-3-2-1 was largely in remaining ambiguous. 

Such developments never arrived and a League Cup semi-final defeat against Hibs, although after his departure, was the culmination of a failure to keep teams guessing.

There is no perfect football tactic, no system that stops attacks or plan that always protects. However, the commonsensical approach van Bronckhorst has introduced to always tweak and adapt means there is no clear and definitive game plan by which to beat Rangers. 

Dundee arrived in Govan with a plan to blockade the centre of the pitch and jump out to press either flank as a team. The home side had to earn territory that a low-block would grant them without trial, while Paul McGowan stayed tight to Glen Kamara and prevented the Finnish midfielder dictating play.

Rangers Review: Dundee manipulate possession wide and pressurise Tavernier as he receives the ball.Dundee manipulate possession wide and pressurise Tavernier as he receives the ball.

Rangers Review:  The entire team shuffles over as Rangers are forced backwards to restart the process. The entire team shuffles over as Rangers are forced backwards to restart the process.

Their pressure map from the fixture shows the regularity with which they applied pressure in wide areas, trying to keep play outside of their shape.

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The plan was to retain central compactness in a narrow 4-2-3-1, however as they faced an onslaught of third-man runs and grew vulnerable to switches of play, Fashion Sakala’s one-v-one threat was utilised successfully.

READ MORE: How Giovanni van Bronckhorst's 'significantly different' 4-3-3 has repaired Rangers' defensive deficiencies

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Sakala’s carry map from this match shows how his starting location was designed to stretch the travelling four-man defence and test the bravery of James McPake who opted not to defend man-for-man.

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Even when the Zambian arrived more centrally this trait was effective, Cammy Kerr here only initiates contact with Sakala once Alfredo Morelos releases his pass in a bid to keep the defensive unit tight.

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Sakala receives in space with room on either side of Kerr open to attack, because Dundee have prioritised staying compact over defending man for man.

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While previously this overloading system worked well against Rangers, playing with wingers instead of high full-backs increases the risk of defending narrowly against the champions and allowing wingers to receive in space.

When city neighbours Dundee United visited a month later, they arrived with a similar plan to limit build-up play but defended in a 5-3-2. Blocking passes into John Lundstram, and then Kamara, by positioning two centre-forwards in front of the No.6.

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Lundstram was unable to move out of these 'cover shadows' successfully and Kamara subsequently moved to play at the base of midfield.

With Nicky Clark blocking a pass into Lundstram and both Rangers No.8s high, Calvin Bassey gives up possession cheaply in this example due to a lack of passing options.

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Kamara was more skilled at escaping from Clark's shadow but due to the risk of losing possession in these areas, Goldson was reluctant to make line-breaking passes.

"I think we lacked a bit of bravery, especially from the back to commit into midfield," the Rangers manager said after the game. "We were just passing, passing. If we could not find Kamara we just passed it back."

Here Rangers manage to stretch the United front two by splitting wide and then fail to succinctly exploit possible passing lanes into Kamara.

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United defended with a back five, so could afford to pin their wing-backs to Ryan Kent, unlike Dundee's four-man compact defence shown above.

Without the overlapping threat of Barisic and given Ianis Hagi's propensity to drift infield from the right-wing, moving possession wide was largely ineffective until half-time.

“With Hagi playing on his left it was more natural for him to come inside," van Bronckhorst explained post-match. "We didn’t have the best positions on the pitch so I knew [Scott] Wright would play like a right-winger."

READ MORE: How Rangers' underlapping James Tavernier upsets metronomic block and opens Scott Wright's 'right-wing runway'

Wright came on and immediately attacked space behind the United left wing-back, Tam Courts' side's defensive line was stretched and the home team garnered more success attacking down either flank.

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While Courts showed how limited the hosts could look when without clear access to Kamara, Barisic's absence and Hagi's ineffectiveness on the wing were two relevant contributing factors. Ultimately, a willingness to adapt and change in-game destabilised the visitor's approach.

St Johnstone and St Mirren both played in a more traditional low-block, which proved less profitable than in previous seasons due to the presence of wingers who looked incredibly dangerous if ever left in space.

Rangers Review: Ryan Kent retains width as St Johnstone block the centre.Ryan Kent retains width as St Johnstone block the centre.

Rangers Review: Giving him time and space to attack from a dangerous area.Giving him time and space to attack from a dangerous area.

Ultimately, teams no longer have foresight into how their opponents will approach games specifically. Van Bronckhorst is "keeping people guessing" with a varied tactical approach and his team look all the better for it.