Philippe Clement bristled at the notion that he might have been impressed by a debut 4-0 win over Hibs on Saturday.

“Impressed is a big word,” he said, instead turning attention towards the need for consistency over coming months. While his side won’t earn superlatives from their new manager just yet, their performance on Saturday was comfortably better than any other domestic outing this season.

But why? Was victory the result of a new manager bounce, the “little seeds” of information Clement referenced sowing or a renewed energy?

The Rangers Review rewatched the game to find out…

A suitable approach

Rangers won’t often be handed the level of room Hibs afforded them domestically - that’s an important caveat to remember. Nick Montgomery’s men didn’t compromise their approach and set up expansively in possession, pushing their full-backs high to try and create a four-vs-four at the top end of the pitch. Hibs' plan was to play through pressure and find attackers in space.

Notice in their passing network a deep double-pivot behind two high full-backs and a front four.

The home side’s shape was subject to subtle alterations rather than sweeping change. In keeping with this season’s trend, Rangers still favoured one of the flanks, the right, in their build-up and normally had an overload (that is, an extra passing option) on that side. John Souttar’s inclusion as the left centre-back confirmed this right-sided focus, given his ability to step inside against pressure onto his favoured foot.

Clement read the tone of the game perfectly. His side were pragmatic with the ball before half time while establishing a lead, attacking quickly and often directly. Rangers set pressing traps in the second line, their midfield, to coax the Hibs full-backs forward and open up gaps down the side of Will Fish and Paul Hanlon, which they notably exploited for the first goal.

What was the plan in possession?

Over the course of the match, Rangers played 513 passes to Hibs’ 448 - nearly 120 less than their home average before kick-off. In fact, the visitors had a larger share of possession (51 to 49 percent) before half time. Although occasionally Clement’s men forced their attacks with straight balls over the top, they were often able to manipulate the pressure they faced more successfully than their opponents. Looking for the wide berth of Abdallah Sima or their extra passing option on the right when playing out from the back.

John Lundstram enjoyed a positive afternoon alongside Nico Raskin. The pivot midfielder knew his role was rarely to receive the ball behind Hibs’ strikers and drive forwards, instead performing one of two broad functions: Either staying behind the front two and moving out of their shadows to open long passing lanes for Connor Goldson...

...Or dropping to create a back three and attract Elie Youan forward, Hibs' left winger, creating a free man to find on the right either in behind...

...Or, in this early example, in the form of James Tavernier. Notice Scott Wright in a narrow position to pin Hibs' left-back, Obita, with Tavernier as the free man on the right.

Contrastingly, Hibs often attempted to build play with their extra number in midfield, given Lundstram was often situated deep offering the defence cover against a man-vs-man scenario.

The visitors created a couple of dangerous moments that lacked a final pass after using a staggered midfield pivot to play through pressure, as seen below.

However, Jimmy Jeggo lacked the threat of Joe Newell in possession and Raskin grew as the game wore on. Hibs' wingers were restricted in terms of one-v-one moments and the home full-backs remained alive to the threat of balls behind. 

Pressing and Duels

“The most important thing for me was the reaction after losing the ball or after missing a chance. Our reactions were good, and that's a crucial part of modern football,” Clement said following the match.

READ MORE: What it's like to play for and work with Philippe Clement 

“Maybe we win the game more by having a good mentality after losing the ball. I think it may be the major point in this game.”

It was his side’s pressure and duel-winning which earned the manager's praise - that alone should outline its significance. Beyond formations, clever tactical ploys and individual displays it’s so often the small details like duels and timing of actions that decide matches. Such as the way Sima and Cyriel Dessers were able to occupy and intercept in the lead-up to the opener after Rangers repeatedly won the second ball from a Hibs free-kick taken by David Marshall. Or the tenacity shown by Sima and Sam Lammers to earn Raskin a shooting opportunity for the second.

Dessers and Lammers led Rangers’ press effectively making more pressures (Dessers 26 and Lammers 25) than any other player. “Hibs showed across the last couple of weeks that they play good football, but they struggled to do their normal football because our attacking players did their defensive job,” Clement added.

One of the key differences between the two teams was the understanding Dessers and Lammers possessed to cut off certain angles when pressing, compared to the Hibs’ front two who, as already outlined, were more comfortably manipulated by Lundstram’s movement alongside Youan's tendency to jump up and leave Tavernier free. As Clement suggested, it was his attacker's defensive job that proved key.

Decision-making let Clement's men down too readily during other moments in transition after trapping Hibs with their full-backs high and attacking space down the sides.

Sima, Lammers and Dessers

Sima has sparked into life as of late at Ibrox. A move to the left flank has catalysed eight goals in his previous seven starts, where he’s able to arrive onto moves and isolate his pace away from the side’s build-up.

Only Dessers is averaging more touches in the opposition box (9.08 to 8.12) than Sima and no Rangers player with over 300 league minutes has surpassed his xG/90 of 0.55. While his decision-making in moments requires fine-tuning, Sima is only growing as an attacking threat. On Saturday, shown below by his carry map, the Senegalese forward repeatedly carried Rangers up the pitch in transition wide on the left, put in a power of work defensively and scored two fantastic goals. 

Lammers and Dessers have not, in a phrase, hit it off with the Ibrox support yet but this game was a step forward. The duo ranked first and second in their side’s xGChain - effectively showing their heavy involvement in all attacking moves.

Dessers’ was composed to pass the ball home late on for his second league goal of the season and throughout, Rangers played closer to the forward’s strengths. He wasn’t caught offside once and that was probably a byproduct of his teammates looking to play into feet. When Dessers did attack the space behind, for the third and fourth goals, his movement and the pass to pick him out were both perfectly-timed. The No.9 occupied defenders and even when that didn’t translate to clean link-up play, neither did it see possession turnover.

Before the game, Dessers' league xG stood at 2.2 and by full-time that number had risen to 3.36. The forward’s single-game xG of 1.26 far outshone his pre-match average of 0.41. Beyond missing chances Dessers’ issue this season has been a lack of them but, particularly after Cantwell's arrival into Saturday's match, that changed.

His movement peeling off before Cantwell’s reverse pass was impressive but so too was this moment - an early sighting of the “interchanging positions” referenced frequently by Clement this past week.

Lammers is perhaps suffering a little from perception. As a No.10, while clearly lacking confidence ahead of goal, plenty of his link-up play was effective. Before a shot which crashed the post, for example, the forward cleverly combined with Dessers to cushion a header from a deep cross. It was his through ball between the lines that created Sima’s third, his pass which found Cantwell to assist the fourth and his interception that earned Raskin’s shooting chance for the second.

With that said, the forward not only has a finishing issue but also a shot selection issue. His xG/Shot (average shot quality rating) of 0.09 isn’t great for any attacker and that’s largely a result of efforts from distances and poor angles. 

Appearing a player who needs a few goals to settle nerves, Lammers’ present issue extends to decision-making, snatching at shots and finishing without confidence. That shouldn’t discount the better elements of Saturday’s performance, however.

Dessers and Lammers were both subject to a lengthy touchline debrief when subbed off and the message was likely similar to Clement’s post-match tone - not at top level, but a step in the right direction.

More control in the second half

After the break Rangers enjoyed 55 percent of possession compared to 49 percent beforehand. Their pass accuracy rose from 75 to 87 percent, long pass share from 10.15 to 7.04 percent, while completing almost double the amount passes (46 to 28) in the opposition's final third compared to the visitors. The structure to "stop stupid transitions" Clement referenced in midweek was largely responsible for this. Often in the form of Raskin and Lundstram, Rangers were able to keep the territory they'd earned by stopping counterattacks at turnovers.

As outlined above, Rangers’ structure on the ball saw their right midfielder tuck inside and create an extra passing option between the lines. Cantwell’s superior end product compared to Wright, who he replaced around the hour mark, took advantage of this. Although starting from the right, the midfielder’s passes received map outlines the variety of positions he was able to pick up in central pockets.

READ MORE: Chris Jack - Why Philippe Clement's Ibrox bow proved so impressive...

The benefit of this right-sided overload was apparent in the build-up to Sima's second goal. As shown in the goal sequence below, Rangers patiently retained possession on the right-hand side and awaited an opening.

Cantwell and Lammers were able to create a two-vs-one against Newell, with the Hibs midfielder pulled wide because of Cantwell's positioning, allowing Rangers' No.14 to receive ahead of the defence and play a line-splitting pass.

Clement's tenure won't be decided by games where space is a guarantee. More often, it will be a commodity. As such, the second half was an encouraging watch, especially considering Cantwell's influence and the pace of Rangers' play in possession.