Defensive strength and goals across the pitch – How Rangers won the title

Connor Goldson, Steven Gerrard and James Tavernier, l-r
11:55am, Mon 08 Mar 2021
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Rangers wrapped up the Scottish Premiership title ahead of the season split after Celtic failed to match their win over St Mirren this weekend.

The Hoops’ goalless draw with Dundee United left Steven Gerrard’s side 20 points clear with six games remaining, meaning they have prevented their rivals winning 10 titles in succession.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how the title was won – starting from the back.

Defence is key

Rangers' Scottish Premiership defensive record

Astonishingly, Rangers have conceded only nine goals in the league this season – a clear driving force behind their success, regardless of their quality at the other end.

That has been the key to their improvement since returning to the Premiership five years ago, with this season’s figure less than half of even the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign.

They conceded 44 and then 50 en route to third place in each of their first two seasons back in the big time, and have improved significantly year-on-year since.

A pair of second-placed finishes saw 27 goals conceded in 2018-19 and 19 in 29 games before last season was cut short – matching champions Celtic’s total, albeit in one game fewer.

They have already played 32 games this term, leaving them on course to concede only 11 in the full campaign – Celtic have averaged 22.25 goals against in winning each of the four titles since their rivals’ return.

Motherwell have scored three of the nine goals against Gerrard’s men, with two each for Hibernian and Dundee United. Aberdeen and Hamilton complete the list, with the Accies in the bottom half with Well post-split and United likely to join them.

Veteran Allan McGregor has been the regular goalkeeper, though back-up Jon McLaughlin has eight clean sheets in nine league appearances. The pair have combined for 30 shut-outs in 45 games in all competitions.

Sharing the goals around

James Tavernier, right, celebrates a goal with Kemar Roofe (PA Archive)

Captain James Tavernier is Rangers’ top scorer in the league this season with 11 goals, with set-pieces and penalties contributing to that total.

That has helped Gers be less reliant on Alfredo Morelos, who has 10 in 24 appearances while Kemar Roofe has also hit double figures.

Goals have come from all around the team, with Ryan Kent scoring eight in the league and Ianis Hagi and Joe Aribo six each.

There have been four apiece from Scott Arfield, Cedric Itten and centre-back Connor Goldson, with Ryan Jack, Jermain Defoe (two each), Filip Helander, Borna Barisic and Glen Kamara also finding the target.

Invincible record in sight

Rangers are still on course to go through the league season unbeaten – a feat last achieved in Scotland by Celtic in 2016-17, the first season after Rangers’ promotion.

Their Old Firm rivals will still have a big say in that, however, with a derby meeting in store on March 21 and another after the split.

Rangers have won the season’s first two meetings, 2-0 with a Goldson brace and 1-0 after Callum McGregor’s own goal, so will be undaunted – and indeed Hibs and Livingston are the only remaining opponents to have taken a point off them.

Aberdeen will join those teams in finishing above the split – Rangers have won all three meetings with the Dons, as they have against the likely final member of the top six, St Mirren, and challengers St Johnstone and Dundee United.

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