Rangers: How have Steven Gerrard’s reached brink of record?


Rangers have not conceded in their opening six games of the Premiership season
Rangers have not conceded in their opening six games of the Premiership season

If Rangers do not concede against Dundee United on Saturday, they will set a new record.

Steven Gerrard’s side matched the mark – set by Celtic 114 years ago – of six clean sheets at the start of a season in their 2-0 win over Hamilton Academical last time out.

In 1906, it took until the final minute of Celtic’s win over Aberdeen in October for their run to be broken by David McKinlay’s late consolation.

Can Rangers better that at Ibrox this weekend? And how have they got to this point?

Settled personal

In their final six games before last term was curtailed, Rangers kept just two clean sheets.

And their back-line did not look like it would change a great deal for this season until Nikola Katic suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in training.

In response, Rangers recruited Leon Balogun on a free transfer after he left Wigan Athletic and the Nigeria international looked a shrewd acquisition from the very first game against Aberdeen.

A knee injury sustained against St Johnstone has ruled him out of Rangers’ last three matches, but Filip Helander has stepped up to partner the impressive Connor Goldson.

On either side, James Tavernier and Borna Barisic have started every game, scoring once and providing three assists from the full-back positions as well as fulfilling their defensive responsibilities.

The biggest change has come in goal, where a niggling injury to Allan McGregor has allowed summer signing Jon McLaughlin to seize his chance with five clean sheets in his five starts.

What do the numbers tell us?

The obvious measure of Rangers’ defensive accomplishment thus far is the fact they are yet to concede, but the underlying numbers are also illustrative.

Steven Gerrard’s side have faced half as many shots per game this season as they did last. And fewer than than any other Premiership side by a distance. For example, Celtic have faced four more shots despite playing two games less.

Furthermore, the xG (expected goals) from the shots they have conceded is also the lowest on average in the division.

So not only are Rangers facing the fewest shots in the top flight, by those that are taken have less change of going in that those taken against any other team.

Slice of good fortune?

While Rangers deserve plenty of credit, it should be acknowledged that their fixture list has been kind.

So far, Aberdeen, St Mirren, St Johnstone, Livingston, Kilmarnock and Hamilton Academical have been unable to breach their defence.

Aberdeen are the only one of those six with a positive goal difference and only Kilmarnock have averaged more than one goal a game, owing mainly to their recent 4-0 victory over Dundee United.

With games against the two teams immediately below them in the table – Hibernian and Celtic – to come, tougher tests will lie ahead for the Rangers back line.

‘It’s what they have to keep doing’ – analysis

Former Rangers winger Neil McCann on Sportsound

It’s a big record and it gives Rangers a brilliant foundation. Clean sheets, scoring goals, it is what they have to keep doing and they already have players in the thick end that can go and win matches.

Jon McLaughlin coming in has looked solid and the most important thing about a goalkeeper, when he is not used a lot and he needs to come up with a big save – he did it again against Hamilton.