Rangers recorded their seventeenth victory from as many home games with a 2-1 victory over Hibernian yesterday. It wasn’t our most polished performance but before I get into reflecting on the match, it’s worth saying that it’s completely understandable that our performances may have dipped considering we won the league in the first week of March, over FIVE weeks ago.
There has been some noise from our distant challengers that there has been no ‘power swing’ and that they are the best team in the country. I was delighted about that because I hope that our players all pay attention and it’s pinned directly on our dressing room wall.
They have used every excuse possible but nothing will disguise the fact that this has been the easiest title victory and the earliest in years. Rangers are Twenty points clear and have been champions for well over a month. By time we lift the trophy we will have been crowned Champions for over two months.
Our team have been exceptional and we have loved every single moment. If we aren’t that good and it’s been a fluke then I can’t wait to see when we get going!
After all the gaffer has rightly pointed out, this is only the beginning.
There is always a danger that our performances would dip given the league was won so long ago. I think that was evident yesterday but those soundbites from across the city should refocus our attentions fully. Rangers do have a point to prove, I think that’s ok to recognise that and it is also ok to use that as a motivation.
We haven’t been at our best against them even though we have taken seven points from nine available. The positive for us is we know we can be a lot better and yet we have still been the dominant side in terms of points. Points win prizes and when we failed to win the cup final we were given nothing for performing well.
If they want to use that as a yard stick then let them because losing 1-0 and drawing 1-1 is the same sort of statistics that we used to cling onto when Graeme Murty was doing his best to keep us afloat.
We owe them a performance and we will need to be at our best against them as no doubt they will be up for it. It’s all about Rangers and what we do, our attitude will decide a lot and we, by the managers own admission, will need to up our levels in order to progress.
Rangers have been sorely affected by injury this season, losing Kemar Roofe, Ryan Jack, James Tavernier, Joe Aribo and now Leon Balogun has been difficult for the squad. All first team players and all key players in their own right.
We desperately miss Ryan Jack in this type of game and there is no doubt we are more controlling when he plays. He has a great understanding with Steven Davis and allows Glen Kamara to cover the full backs effectively also. That’s a concern for me on the day as well as an overall concern given his ongoing injury issues, to have missed almost eighty games at Rangers is a big concern.
I was worried about Glen Kamara yesterday, I thought he was passive and the more I see Joe Aribo the more I am convinced he doesn’t work in a middle three that is required to graft hard. That is no criticism of him as he is a fantastic footballer but I feel he is better when he has the freedom to drift and play further forward. Several times this season he has failed to track back, thinking Pittodrie and Antwerp for example, which has cost us goals.
Glen works best with the protection of Ryan Jack and Steven Davis but if he is affected by off field issues then it is little wonder. As a club we must stand by him and ensure we give him every support, what has happened to him is a disgrace and I sincerely hope UEFA deal with it properly though sadly I won’t be holding my breath.
To me yesterday he looked like he was affected by that as he wasn’t his usual self. I thought we just done enough and we can certainly be a lot brighter. I thought we lacked an intensity and drive in our game. That’s understandable but the concern would be to switch that on for next week.
Steven Davis was bright and clearly can be relied on but the midfield is my worry as the season comes to a close. Getting that balance right ahead of the weekend is key and it shouldn’t sound negative, we are more than capable and have proved it.
There was however big positives to take from the game yesterday. Filip Helander was once again excellent and it’s easy to see why there is reported interest in the big Swede. He is quietly understated in everything he does and it is easy to see why we are rarely beaten whenever he plays. A fantastic player and very controlled, can be trusted to man mark effectively as we saw yesterday on Doidge or play freely and defend everything that is thrown at him.
I commented before that he is the best Swede to play for us and that’s not said lightly considering the talents of Thern, Bjorklund and Prytz to name but a few.
Ryan Kent produced a cracking goal and he has been fantastic this season, a real dream to have in our side but with the added numbers he hasn’t quite hit previously. Twenty five goal involvements is huge numbers and throw in Ianis Hagi’s numbers then between them they have contributed fifty goals for our team. That’s the difference this year and why we are doing so well.
Another huge positive has been the performances of Nathan Paterson and he is definitely a prospect. Defensively aware, quick on the break and also not scared to try to attack. He will be a fantastic player for our club and we must allow him time to progress. James Tavernier signing a new deal is fantastic for the club and having Nathan pushing him will ensure both continue to progress in their Rangers careers.
I have been very impressed with the way the club have dealt with our contract situations. Steven Davis, Allan McGregor and James Tavernier all renewed without even the slightest hint in the media is a fantastic thing. I am extremely hopeful that Connor Goldson will follow and that will be the icing on the cake in terms of renewals.
That would be the pillars of the team secured and undoubtedly give us stability going forward.
It’s a nice position when we can talk about victories and three points not being up to standard but nothing should be misconstrued in how happy we are with the teams performances this season.
We have been incredible in the league and we had a fantastic run in Europe also. The big disappointment was the league cup and the Scottish cup provides the club with the opportunity to settle a lot of scores.
This is Rangers, every game is a cup final and we welcome that type of intensity, it’s up to the players to raise the bar in one last push until the end of the season.
It’s been a brilliant season and everyone will remember it fondly no matter what happens. But it could be a sensational double.
We are champions for a reason and no matter what excuses are offered there is no denying that fact. The table doesn’t lie and the pendulum has swung.
Rangers are Champions and we welcome the chase.