Analysing any defeat always has the benefit of hindsight: “we should have done this"; "we should have played him.” These proposed changes are easy to make once the game has run its course. It also has the added benefit that any suggestions made post match can never be wrong. However, when attempting to analyse the humiliating defeat by Rangers at Tynecastle last night, it’s also worth pointing out that hindsight played far less of a part in post-match discussion, than that of our actual experience at this ground earlier in the season.
In that game in November, a Hearts team who were well up for it, hounded and harassed Rangers at every turn, systematically dismantled a Rangers team that looked wholly unprepared for the task at hand and defended abysmally on the night. The game was completely out of reach with 30 minutes still on the clock and it was not inconceivable that Hearts could have scored more.
Does this sound familiar?
Away fixtures at Tynecastle are never easy and nor should they be, so surely with the manner of the defeat there earlier in the season fresh in the mind, there was an expectation that the Rangers team sent out would and should do things differently. That they would take on board the harsh lessons learned. Sadly, this was not the case as Warburton stuck with his attacking, open formation that was destroyed at this ground last time out, while keeping players in the team who are under-performing week in, week out. This intransigence in team tactics looks fundamentally flawed, as Rangers continue to play an open formation that allows other teams to play their brand of football. While at Ibrox this may help to break teams down, away from home it is utterly the wrong tactic - as the away form this season comprehensively proves.
Why do Rangers persist with this formation? Why does the manager not learn from previous lessons? Ultimately the only conclusion that can now be reached is that Mark Warburton simply doesn’t know what else to do.
It seems a damning indictment of a professional football manager, yet every available piece of evidence we have points to a complete ineptness in the art of sending out a team that is compact, disciplined and hard to break down - a necessity at some away grounds in Scotland. Some Hearts goals last night were almost carbon copies of one another as quick free kicks left our midfield stranded and half our defenders out of position, with the inevitable results. This team and this manager are not learning their lessons and appear totally incapable of doing so. The team selection and setup is something that would not be out of place in the playground and it is nowhere near good enough.
This was compounded further still by substitutions - most on the obligatory 60 minute mark - that saw Rangers best player in Hyndman being subbed. As this lad was helping to barely keep it together for Rangers in the middle of the park, it was no surprise to see Rangers lose another goal within two minutes of his replacement and the entire team fold like a bad poker hand. Hyndman has scored two goals in two games and assisted Kenny Miller in another within minutes of his debut. He is quickly becoming indispensable to Rangers. Halliday remaining on the park while Hyndman went off was almost surreal in its stupidity.
The substitution itself was explained away by Mark Warburton post-match, by saying that he has a responsibility to the parent club to protect the player because the pitch was heavy. This is a simply inexcusable statement for a Rangers manager to make. The awe and adulation that Warburton obviously holds for the EPL clubs should never compromise a Rangers team or manager. Yet that is exactly what was witnessed last night.
With the manager apparently kowtowing to Bournemouth at the expense of having his best players on the park, the lack of fight in last night’s game points to the conclusion that many of our players also fail to understand what it means to play for Rangers. Journeyman players picked from the lower reaches of the English leagues appear to have no idea what’s involved, with the home grown players not acquitting themselves any better. That is a sad indictment of the squad assembled.
Mark Warburton is a decent man however it is becoming clear that he is out of his depth as a Rangers manager. Most of his players look out of place in a Rangers team.