Michael Beale was slightly more chirpy than Rangers Twitter stepping into the new Ibrox press room on Wednesday night.

For the manager, his side’s 3-1 defeat against Olympiacos was “Another really good pre-season game in a different style to Hamburg and Newcastle. We need that, the variety.”

Contrastingly, a quick scroll through the social media newsfeed demonstrated a different perspective. Criticism flooded in, reacting to a perceived lack of sharpness, reluctance to press and, a fact that was undeniable, weak defensive moments. This was a pre-season performance to concern, not encourage.

So why the contrast in reaction? The answer lies in the desired outcomes.

“I'm fine at the moment because we had a double session Monday and trained hard yesterday so I know where the boys are at, we're challenging them and will see the benefits of that when the season starts,” Beale said speaking in his post-match press conference.

“We know we have to push the group because from the start of the season, we go into a three-game week for the rest of the month. It's important we have things in our legs and I don't want to stop training hard going into a game. We were against a good opponent tonight, there's a reason why we picked this level of opponent, there's no point getting pats on the back winning 3-0 against lesser opponents.

“The boys trained hard into the game and I get as soon as we play everyone wants it to look shiny and fantastic but we'll be okay. There's one or two incoming as well and it will all settle down when it's supposed to in 10 days time - 10 days is a long time in pre-season.”

You sense these pre-season matches have been arranged with more of a mind towards the upcoming Champions League qualifiers than domestic business. Generally, without a summer to bed in his ideas and recruit his players, Beale found a successful formula for domestic fixtures that his predecessor Giovanni van Bronckhorst never cracked. 

Speaking at his side’s training camp in Germany recently, it was the importance of Rangers’ play out of possession heading into this new season that proved apparent for Beale.

“Since we’ve come back we’ve worked really hard defensively, making sure our distances and how we want to play as a team defensively in two or three different shapes. The back end of this week will work with the ball and getting our attacking players playing close together and building those relationships. I smile saying that because I know the players are looking forward to it. The defending and pressing is maybe the ugly side of the game but we’re trying to build solid foundations.”

By the manager’s own admission, players and supporters alike look forward to what teams do on the ball far more than what they do off it. Nonetheless, despite being the “ugly side” of the game, how Rangers perform in their out-of-possession shape this season will prove vital.

In all three pre-season matches so far we’ve seen Beale’s side adopt similar approaches out of possession. Lining up a 4-3-3 before the break they have switched to a more aggressive 4-3-1-2 after it.

PPDA, Passes Per Defensive Action, doesn’t tell us everything about a team’s off-ball approach but in the right context, it can prove helpful. If you need a reminder, the metric records the average number of passes a defensive team allows before attempting a defensive action. Generally speaking, if they’re more aggressive, that number will be lower. Although with teams pressing to triggers, the metric has its limits.

If we look at the PPDA chart from matches with Newcastle (top) and Hamburg we can see that across the board, Rangers had a lower average in the second half compared to the first. I.e. they were generally more aggressive with their pressure after the break.

They also enjoyed more of the ball (48%) in the second half of both those ties compared to the first (34% vs Newcastle and 46% vs Hamburg). That’s because of the aforementioned change in shape at half-time.  

READ MORE: Michael Beale's Rangers striker evolution amid transfer fit

The former system is all about protecting the centre, keeping the opposition away from the goal and pressing when a backwards pass is played or an opportunity to press by the touchline presents itself.

In this example from last night, notice Todd Cantwell pressing out from his midfield position while Sam Lammers slots in centrally. It’s a system that keeps sides at arm's length off the ball, pushing them around the centre, without pressing the defence aggressively from the outset. Importantly attackers, in this case, Lammers can remain central instead of tracking full-backs. 

It can still prove an aggressive option, as we saw when the Ibrox side managed to trap Hamburg and so nearly create a one-on-one at the weekend.

More generally, you’ll see Rangers adopt this shape in phases of the game when they need to keep things tight, or towards the start of matches when both sides are finding their feet.

The latter shape is a more aggressive option. It matches the numbers in the opponent's first line, meaning that the only direct passing options are normally the full-backs or a ball behind the defence. 

Generally speaking, the line of engagement is higher. It's a system that presses more readily, rather than waiting for a backwards pass or loose touch to pounce. Notice a front two in both of the below stills, from matches with Hamburg and Olympiacos. 

Although Rangers’ penalty was won by way of a mistake last night, it was the positioning of Abdallah Sima next to Cyriel Dessers in the front line that enabled the hosts' to match up their opponents man-for-man and capitalise. 

Lammers’ goal against Newcastle also came about because of this shape change. After Newcastle tried to go down both flanks and were forced backwards, they eventually played into the centre where the attacker was ready to pounce. 

Beale wants his teams to defend in a particular manner to aid the attack, believing “If you’re more organised you’ll run less, you’ll play with less stress and be ready to attack."

When his assistant Neil Banfield spoke exclusively to the Rangers Review last season, he reasoned that "When you haven’t got the ball he sees that as a vital part of being a top team, it's steel with style".

It isn't why most watch football but for Beale, it's clear that much of this pre-season has been about trialling and training details off the ball. Ensuring his side can control matches even when not in control of the ball.

Not everything in football is mutually exclusive. The mistakes in defence are concerning, especially when the culprits are not new arrivals and most would agree that transfer activity is still required at the back. Only a better showing in Germany will build confidence levels ahead of the new season. Supporters, and seemingly players, will always be more excited by what happens on the ball as opposed to the “ugly side” Beale references.

Beale, having been backed, knows how quickly he'll be judged if any slips occur early on this season. With the preparation almost over, the time to perform is almost here.