Rangers: How have Steven Gerrard's side beaten 114-year record?

By Jordan ElgottBBC Scotland
Rangers have not conceded in their opening seven games of the Premiership season
Rangers have not conceded in their opening seven games of the Premiership season

Rangers beat a record that had stood for 114 years on Saturday by keeping a clean sheet against Dundee United at Ibrox.

Steven Gerrard's side surpassed the mark - set by Celtic in 1906 - of six clean sheets at the start of a season after recording a 4-0 win to maintain their advantage at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

But how have they done it?

Settled personnel

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 centre-back looked a shrewd acquisition from the very first game against Aberdeen.

A knee injury sustained against St Johnstone ruled him out of three matches, and he was hurt in the warm-up before the United game. In his stead, Filip Helander has stepped up to partner the impressive Connor Goldson.

On either side, James Tavernier and Borna Barisic have started every game, scoring goals and providing 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 six clean sheets in his six starts.

What do the numbers tell us?

Shots FacedxGAxG/Shot Faced
Source: Opta

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

Before the United game, Gerrard's side had faced half as many shots per game this season as they did last - and fewer than any other Premiership side by a distance. For example, Celtic had faced four more shots despite playing two games fewer.

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

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

Much of that will be down their own abilities, starving teams of possession and the time and space to create, rather that mere luck, though.

Slice of good fortune?

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

So far, Aberdeen, St Mirren, St Johnstone, Livingston, Kilmarnock, Hamilton Academical and United 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.

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