The out-of-possession phase in football is described by the Fifa Training Centre as follows.

“When teams are out of possession, they can dictate the opposition’s play through pressure and team shape. Out of possession, players can make recovery runs, deny the opposition opportunities to pass forwards, directly compete for possession or actively engage in a pressing action.”

A team can be in control of a game while not in control of the ball. Possession is not everything and for some coaches, perhaps those who prioritise low-block defending and transitional attacks or pressing to create chances, it's not even favourable. In Diego Torres’ biography of Jose Mourinho, he details the manager’s seven-point plan for winning big games away from home. Rule No.6, “whoever has the ball has fear” and rule No.7 “whoever does not have it is thereby stronger”.

All of which is a dramatic way of saying that Rangers’ first-half approach at Ibrox in Sunday’s Old Firm would’ve made sense in a certain context, just not the game they were playing. Perhaps an away Old Firm tie or even, as was the case in the first half of January’s 2-2 Old Firm draw, when a perceived gap exists in this fixture.

That was not Sunday. Against a weakened Celtic side fresh from two damaging results, Beale’s side were too reactionary as opposed to setting the tone with their press and handed over the initiative. With a Celtic centre-back pairing never likely to be seen again playing at the heart of Brendan Rodgers' team and 50,000 ready to play their part, this was a game to force the issue and chase the opposition. There’s a time for patience, probing pressing to force mistakes - this particular Old Firm game was not it.

“We started the game well and then tended to sit deep as a back four. We wanted to push the back four slightly higher. You can’t have the front guys trying to press and the back four sitting deep. We spoke about it at half time and I thought the defence came up 15, 20 yards in the second half,” Beale conceded in the Ibrox press room come full-time.

Tactics are technical but also cultural and on Sunday within the context of a tone-setting fixture, Ibrox wanted a more proactive performance rather than the showing pulling in two directions before half time. 

Whether it be Rangers' PPDA, Passes Per Defensive Action, chart or the game's xG trendline, Beale's side were so far off the levels required before the break.

Of course, the fact that Celtic scored on the stroke of half time impacted their approach after the break significantly. What's more PPDA, although charting the average passes allowed before a defensive action is made, does not categorically outline the intensity of a defensive showing. The ‘best’ or ‘most aggressive’ teams don’t always have the lowest PPDA average, some are simply more patient.

And admittedly, had Don Robertson not overturned Kemar Roofe's goal after a VAR check, the gameplan chosen may well have ended in success. But it did not and broadly speaking, outside of Roofe's moment, Rangers' pressure before the break proved more of a net positive for the visitors than the hosts.

This was a vulnerable Celtic defence who found it too easy to find a rhythm in an environment they ought not to have found comfort in.

In pre-season, we saw plenty of variation in Rangers' off-ball approach and Beale explained, “The defending and pressing is maybe the ugly side of the game but we’re trying to build solid foundations". There was clearly intentionality in the approach on Sunday, so what were Rangers trying to do and why didn't it work?

Let’s look at two examples of previous matches first. Crucially, Rangers' off-ball approach on Sunday is dependent on the front three setting the groundwork and a midfielder jumping up to make the killer blow. As Beale suggested post-match, you can’t have one element of the team pulling forward while the other holds its ground.

Let’s take Rangers’ opening goal against PSV, scored thanks to an outrageous Abdallah Sima effort but earned through pressing, as a first example. In many ways, the first half felt similar to Sunday. Rangers had created little and PSV appeared in control up until they fell into a pressing trap that Rangers’ front three created and midfield exploited.

Below, as Cyriel Dessers presses Walter Benitez he shapes his run to encourage a pass into the feet of Ibrahim Sangare. The midfielder, receiving with his back to goal, acts as a pressing trigger for Nico Raskin to jump up and win the ball from his deeper midfield berth. Throughout the half, Sangare had regularly spun away from pressure and escaped danger but all it took was one moment for Rangers to capitalise.

The option of a free pass into Sangare encouraged PSV’s defenders to split wide and ensure that this central space was available for Rangers to exploit numerically on the turnover.

Here’s another example from a pre-season match against Hamburg. Rangers’ front three are outnumbered in Hamburg’s build-up as they shape the visiting side’s play to one side. The hosts are happy to encourage a pass to the touchline, where the receiver will subsequently have more limited passing options, and then try to win the ball off the back of that pass.

As possession is worked to Van der Brempt on the right his options are indeed limited. If the defender goes up the line it’s likely possession will turnover and Sima’s blocking a route to the keeper. A central pass into his pivot player is open, with Ramos in space, but this is where Rangers want Van der Brempt to play. They’ve set a trap that the German side step into.

Although Ramos is free in the middle, given the proximity of Rangers players around him, it’s the hosts who have control of this ground. When that pass is played infield, Rangers are ready and primed to attack the receiver from all angles. Crucially, again, it’s the action of a player behind the front three that capitalises as Raskin steps up and wins the ball in a dangerous area. 

On Sunday, it appeared as though Beale was trying something similar, with Raskin the man in the middle free to jump up from the No.6 spot. So why didn’t it work? How did Callum McGregor find the space to run this game from the base of midfield?

First and foremost, it wasn’t a game for patience. Again, had the first goal been correctly awarded the approach would’ve been looked at in a more favourable light but that only tells one side of the story. Rangers conceded dangerous moments as a direct result of their press being played through before the break.

Beale conceded "there was a bit of anxiousness in the performance" and that not only extended to what his side did with the ball but their indecision in moments off it.

Take this example, McGregor has possession but no forward passing options with Roofe blocking a pass out wide and Rangers protecting the centre.

Celtic are forced to the right where Gustaf Lagerbielke has possession but again, no real forward options. Dessers presses the forward while simultaneously blocking a passage into McGregor, allowing Rangers to shape the game, win the ball and score a well-worked goal that VAR would disallow. 

This was a rare moment of incision but an example of what Rangers were trying to do. Force errors and indecision, before capitalising on them and exploiting central spaces.

READ MORE: Beale's starting 11 indecision hasn't helped consistency in a tumultuous month 

Outside of that example, Rangers’ press lacked a team-wide urgency and because they weren’t playing on the front foot, the hosts found themselves reacting to Celtic’s game instead of setting the afternoon’s tone. The backline was too deep and consequentially, Celtic were too comfortable. 

Here’s an example. Rangers have created a similar situation to their disallowed goal, cutting off the centre-back’s passing options as Dessers moves onto Lagerbielke. However, Kyogo’s movement dropping off the front allows Celtic to play through the lines and find McGregor as a third-man option. Neither of Rangers’ centre-backs have followed Kyogo so therefore, Raskin must react.

After Kyogo’s wall pass, and with Raskin on the back foot, McGregor can find Greg Taylor who in turn releases Daizen Maeda. The winger cuts infield and nearly collides with James Tavernier in the box.

Too often as the game became stretched, McGregor was found at will. In this example, Celtic work the ball under pressure on the right and Raskin partly jumps up to pressurise McGregor from the base of midfield.

However, by the time play has been worked over to the other side of the pitch the Belgian drops back out of the picture completely.

Meaning that when this square ball, so similar to the Hamburg example above, is played infield by Johnson, Raskin is nowhere to be seen. Rangers’ front three have worked a potential pressing trap, with that central space ready to be pressed, but none of the midfield have joined them.

McGregor can then play a pass behind Rangers' high line with the midfield having failed to commit forwards, leading to a dangerous cutback created by Liel Abada.

Why did Raskin not continue his pressing movement in this example? The knock-on effect of both full-backs being pinned back deep by Celtic’s wingers, Kyogo dropping deep and two No.8s occupying Jack and Cantwell meant that it was Raskin’s job to jump up and press McGregor, but then also shield the space ahead of Connor Goldson and John Souttar.

The resulting factor was that even when the Celtic back four played themselves into potentially precarious positions, Rangers didn’t have the connections to capitalise. By the time Kyogo's goal had split the difference heading into half time for those issues to be solved, it was ultimately too late.

“Is the connection between the midfield and the front players where it was in the past? Not right now, no. That is what we need to work on,” Beale added in relation to his side’s off-ball work.

Beyond a disallowed goal, there was more here to be seized for Rangers. A far better day in the sun to be had. A different, more aggressive approach suitable to the occasion would’ve channelled Ibrox’s energy heading into a narrative-defining game.

But even within the patient, pressing ploy opted for, a failure to stick to the plan and press with cohesion proved costly.