James Bisgrove and John Bennett have plenty of important factors to consider in appointing a new Rangers manager.

Whoever replaces Michael Beale must have the necessary stature to inherit a team and support low on belief. While past association with the club does not equal success, past experience of winning league titles is a necessity. A track record of implementing a style and identity on the pitch that earns buy-in is vital.

There’s no pre-season to drip-feed ideas over the course of a week or transfer window to mould the squad. There’s a League Cup Final to be won, league deficit to be closed and European group to qualify from before January. In selecting between Philippe Clement and Kevin Muscat, the Ibrox board must also ask which coach’s style, system and philosophy are better suited to the current squad and achieving short-term goals. 

Trying to simplify this topic can prove tricky because it’s very rarely a black-and-white conversation. How many managers can we plainly brand ‘attacking’ or ‘defensive’? Two managers could play a 4-3-3, yes, but like Steven Gerrard and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, similar pre-match line-up graphics can mean very different things when the whistle sounds. Plus, there’s the context of where said manager has previously worked. How strong are the leagues they’ve won and what tactical challenges are posed there? How do they strike the balance between adapting to the opposition and forcing the opposition to adapt to them?

With this in mind, we’ll try and do it anyway. What style of football do Muscat and Clement play and how does that suit Rangers’ squad and situation?

Despite popular opinion, Kevin Muscat is not wedded to a 4-3-3 but would introduce a very definable style. His Yokohama F. Marinos side have often used a 4-2-3-1 this season with a double-pivot midfield helping build play. Although he uses full-backs in an ‘inverted’ fashion, their role and function appear more related to the wide players ahead of them rather than moving infield to become extra midfielders in the build-up. His centre-backs must be happy covering wide spaces in an isolated fashion and capable of breaking lines in possession. 

Muscat’s team often resembles a 4-2-4 in possession and can look to bait opposition teams to press before playing forward quickly - seeking to attack space behind or ahead of the defence, who are being kept high and occupied by four forwards. Two of those forwards, the No.10 and central striker, will drop in to offer a central passing option at times while the wingers seek to remain high. It can often resemble a Brighton-esque box midfield and build-up approach, with a staggered midfield duo to match.

READ MORE: Working with Kevin Muscat - 'The best leader I've seen' with clear footballing ideas

The full-backs have a really interesting role and when it comes to breaking down defences they’re key. You’ll often see full-backs make ‘decoy’ underlapping runs to open up passing lanes into wide players and move defences or pop up in central locations.

As Ross Aloisi, Muscat’s assistant at Yokohama in Japan, told the Rangers Review: “In the final third, it's unpredictable - that's where the style of play hurts a lot of opposition teams. Kev might have a full-back moving into the No.10 position and, you know, who tracks that player? Or it might be one of your No.6s running beyond, or your full-back and winger swapping positions. It’s very unpredictable which makes it hard for teams to defend against.”

We used the following example in our deep-dive on Muscat the manager.

Muscat's left-back, Koike, starts the move by playing the ball wide to Eiber before continuing his underlapping run. While not receiving the ball again, this commits the Shonan defender (highlighted in yellow) who'd otherwise double-up on the ball carrier, earning Eiber more time and space to cut infield and allowing Marinos to dominate a three-vs-two in the opposition's favour.

In outplaying with fewer men, Marinos have space and numbers on the opposite flank where they can switch to their right-back, moving into a central position. Look at the positioning of both full-backs as the goal is scored. As Aloisi says, "You might have a full-back moving into the No.10 position and, you know, who tracks that player?"

Aloisi also spoke about the extent of Muscat’s adaptability - a theme we’ll explore when discussing Clement.

“He’s had to change the way he's played this season as well because he did lose a couple of key players, What I mean is that he adapts to the players he’s got to fit his style. So if he's got certain players, he'll play the same brand of football but in a different way. In his press, he will adapt to the opposition, but the playing style on the ball stays the same. Kev will adapt to what he’s got while playing the same brand of football.”

This is insightful - it demonstrates the extent of Muscat’s adaptability. He will make tweaks and changes to his demands based on what players he has available while playing the same brand of football. 

Muscat’s football is based upon vertical play, quick attacks, intense pressure, transitions, dynamic play from wide areas, fluid movement in the final third and aggression. Whatever he asks individual players to do, those overarching principles will remain the same.

Speaking to one source who’s managed in the Belgian top flight recently, their summation of Philippe Clement’s style was revealing.

“He’s an exciting coach and a great person. He always tries to adapt to the profiles he has available and the opponent. When pressing he’ll often use a man-for-man approach everywhere on the pitch - this is typically Belgian.

READ MORE: Working with Philippe Clement - Attacking patterns, man management and adaptability 

“If you dominate the league with teams like Club Bruges or Rangers, that's good enough because the individual quality is clearly higher than that of the opponent. But if the league is more balanced, like Ligue 1 for example or international games, then it's a problem from my point of view.”

As Thomas Buffel explained to the Rangers Review during an in-depth profile of Clement, the 49-year-old is a modern coach who works on plenty of attacking patterns, like Muscat, focusing on verticality in the final third.

“He puts a lot of focus on patterns in attacking and defending the box. So these things become a habit when you’re in high-pressure situations during games. For example, if you work on the runs that strikers are going to make every day as a team, you’ll recognise these moments better in a game. 

“In training, he always works with end zones because that means you obtain verticality in your play. You can play possession games and become strong at retaining the ball but at the end of the day, you don’t end up reaching anything. It’s important that you move forward with the ball.”

The difference to Muscat? He'd perhaps arrive with less of a set “brand of football”. That's not to say his adaptability is going to extend to every game, basing plans heavily on the opponents domestically, like Van Bronckhorst. Instead, his overall style at Rangers would be tailored to this squad’s strength in order to bring out their qualities. In the short term at least, with limited time on the training pitch to get results, this could prove effective. Clement won three successive Belgian top flights and knows what it's like to coach a dominant team in a league.

How could that look in practice? Could Clement look at the left side of the pitch and see a winger in Rabbi Matondo, who he faced in Belgium, or a wide forward in Abdallah Sima, who’s scored in his last six starts for Rangers and see natural threat from wide areas, while reviewing the right-hand side and adapting to the fewer wide options he has there? 

The profile of the squad Beale built was very much designed to overload and build on the right. Take the below example from a 2-0 win away at Ross County. 


Notice a tilt towards the right, with Tavernier higher than Borna Barisic. Rangers continued a recent trend of building play more frequently down the right, with the right-footed Todd Cantwell rotating into the left-back slot to provide infield angles at points. Finding the side of the pitch where they enjoyed an overload.

Despite having drawn comparisons between the way that Van Bronckhorst may differ, it’s also vital to consider the other side of the coin. Van Bronckhorst was also able to stabilise quickly but never enjoyed a domestic run as good as that opening five weeks. Despite a winter break in early January, the Dutchman’s domestic style never convinced or achieved results as during the initial phase following his appointment. Like Clement, he’d been a successful coach in a stronger European League before coming to Ibrox. 

The priority for Rangers must be domestic trophies. That’s what supporters crave, that’s what this club needs. Recent history suggests the manner to achieve that is through a relatively uncompromising attacking philosophy that can guarantee the relentless glut of goals required to win a league title in Scotland, but there's no one way to win. Both Muscat and Clement are modern managers with real appeal behind either appointment. 

A strategist's job is to see the future as clearly as possible, to pick apart the fine-tuned details that will ultimately make a difference - that’s what the current Rangers board must do without repeating the mistakes of the summer.