Rangers have looked good in pre-season so far, player fitness and performance has been largely encouraging. The results have been impressive but as I have learned throughout the years they largely mean very little. I was never really concerned that we would become undone in France because those aren’t the type of games we struggle in. We were well organised and subtle tweaks to the set up have impressed me.
Before I continue it is important to emphasise that I am not downplaying our progress in pre-season, far from it, I just remain cautious and until we see that team come with the low-block (park the bus for you and I) then questions will remain. That’s not a critique of anything we have done heading into this campaign, just a natural hang over from our previous failures. However the performance has been good and arguably we have done everything we can.
To concentrate on the positives, France was a huge success. The team look hungry and they were very well organised which we have come to expect tactically from a side organised by Michael Beale. Whilst I would never sit and try to write a blog on tactics, my own observations have made me think our front three are a lot closer together almost as three strikers.
That has meant, or at least I think it has, is that when we attack Ianis Hagi always seems to be in the box and Ryan Kent on the edges which obviously gives us much more of a threat. It also means when one of them drop deep and the other goes long the opponents defence don’t know who to follow and where to be. That naturally creates spaces for the wing backs and I have noticed that both Tav and Borna have had a lot more space than normal.
Of our eight goals you can already see the effects of the above. As simple as it sounds more presence in the box is a necessity and getting solid goal contribution numbers from others a huge priority.
The other noticeable difference is that Joe Aribo is playing further forward in our midfield three. He is pressing and pushing more effectively meaning when he does steal possession we are able to attack with purpose. Aribo himself has always really frustrated me because I can see the ability but arguably not always the application. He is however a year on and if we can unlock his consistency could have the potential to really flourish in our side. He has undoubted skill and talent, that’s not even debatable in my opinion. His goal on Wednesday, much like his turnover against Nice, was absolutely fantastic bit of play.
Our eleven is more than capable on its day and the signs have been good. It is rather strange that I have no fears of going to Leverkusen and playing in that type of free flowing game but wouldn’t fancy a trip to Kilmarnock on a league day. That’s my one big issue with where we are and I suppose that won’t go away until we actually prove we can handle that scenario.
This is where I begin to have my doubts however and I consider the drop off from our eleven to those apparent ‘squad’ players is far too big. Those in the squad need to start picking up and whilst there is a case for even a strong sixteen there is no doubting that an injury to the aforementioned front four and we struggle hugely. The gauntlet has been handed down to the likes of Jordan Jones and if they want to remain at Rangers then they really need to start showing it.
I will also be honest and openly say that I have severe doubts that several of those ‘squad’ players are anywhere good enough to make it in the managers plans. That is where any reinforcements must be first team standard and ready to enhance the eleven then ultimately the sixteen then eighteen man squad.
Rangers are short of quality in the middle of the park, the manager has admitted we need more firepower.
Leon Balogun has now signed a one year deal with an option of a second, the Nigerian defender ex Brighton and Wigan becomes Rangers fourth summer signing. Wigan fans have spoken very well of the defenders impact on their good run of form, crediting him with being good in the air and comfortable on the ball. Many fans already comparing him to former league winner Madjid Bougherra. Again this was a move that went without a whisper until Nigerian press broke it yesterday morning. Another clear indication of how efficiently Ross Wilson, Steven Gerrard and the recruitment team are working.
It isn’t unrealistic to think that as many as three or four will still come in to the club. That absolutely has to be a necessity in order to stand up to the test this season.
There is also an expectancy that players will leave and I can see as many as six to eight players leaving the club either permanently or on loan. In reality the transfer window isn’t even warm yet in terms of activity and as a club I think we have plenty more to see.
We are also entitled to expect a greater level of consistency from those first team players, Barisic, Kent, Morelos etc all owe their manager a level of solid consistency they have yet to produce.
There is plenty of work to be done and plenty of points to prove but that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t do it, we most certainly can, but the real tests are very much to come.
The early habits are good, the early form is encouraging, we very much have to get behind the players as much as possible and they very much have to repay the loyalty the management and support have shown them.
This is Rangers, it’s been far to long and the time is very much now, it really is time to kick on.
Finally, tomorrow see’s my first entry into the media circle as I cover Rangers for the first time as a fans representative. What it means is a match report blog and hopefully additional blog content with quotes from management and or players. I will hopefully post plenty of videos and blogs across our sites also. When I started fourlads I done so to create something people could enjoy and something that would dispel the fantasy claims surrounding our club. None of it possible without your following or support so I hope everyone will enjoy the ‘new’ content that it brings.
People should also trust that having this ‘access’ won’t stop me criticising or asking the questions we need answering. This has already happened on occasions and I will try to do what I think is right at all times. I have already sought answers over several issues and will continue to do so where I think we need to do so. What people should also be aware of this is only a fans blog and I can only report back what I am told.
This is a new era, a huge positive and something as a fanbase we have fought for the club to recognise. You now have a choice of how you get your news beyond the official channels, the main stream media or your fellow supporters.
So roll on Coventry and roll on Aberdeen, the time for this team and management is indeed now, I can’t help but feel we are on the cusp of something exciting
‘Ignore the nonsense, the irrelevant and the noise’