Four wins out of four represents the perfect start for Giovanni Van Bronckhorst in the Rangers managerial hot seat. With Europe successfully negotiated and three strong victories in the league, we now head to France before a huge league match at Tynecastle which is as vital to the season as any match thus far.
Without looking too far ahead, the next six league games represent a vital period in the season with the three away league games very much our most difficult in the league calendar. Rangers though can take confidence from the form shown so far, even this early, under the new management team.
It’s been similar 433/4231 formation but changes in philosophy are subtle yet clearly suiting the players. It’s clear we are much more patient, the full backs more disciplined, with overlaps key to their play, and the wingers wide instead of tucking in.
The full backs offer the centre backs more protection as well as what I see as the most subtle change. This being, the central midfielder, which has been Kamara or Lundstram when he came on at Hibs, is dropping deep between the centre backs to protect from long balls whether from centre backs or goal kicks. That subtle change is another example of how much emphasis this management put on ‘protecting the zero’.
Passing has been slower and less forced in a sense that we are more considered in our attack. It seems we have dropped tempo slightly to move it around more and with more zip, more emphasis on using it with intent than using it for the sake of it. That means we are hurting teams more in vital areas but in tougher games, like Hibs away, clearly looks more considered and more patient than previous. We seem intent on knowing that the opportunities will come as long as we are compact and keep possession.
If we look at chances created against both Livingston and Dundee as well as how we have dominated the ball in all three league games, it is clear it is more ball possession and moving it with more conviction in areas that hurt teams. Saturdays stats where amongst the most impressive I have seen in a while and could and most likely should have been closer to six nil rather than three.
It’s almost like Gio has fine tuned the previous style, tinkered with the good points and tightened up the bad points. That’s not a criticism of the previous regime but I have said this before and will say it again, sometimes managements reach a ceiling of development and it’s possible a fresh approach may just be what was needed here.
Borna Barisic seems to be revelling in this new philosophy and it’s easy to see why. His primary focus is now stopping the crosses and then overlapping from deep, he is no longer playing high and wide which forces him to try to influence the attack in a way he was clearly not comfortable. On the flipside this may mean we aren’t as all out attacking but those deep runs are causing more issues and we are no longer as vulnerable to the counter.
It’s not huge changes but enough to be noticeable and Saturdays victory over Dundee was as enjoyable a performance as we have seen so far this season. A more rounded and complete performance which avoided any major scares at least until the game was long done.
The patient build up was clear as was a more prominent attacking role for Alfredo Morelos in leading the line. In four games he has played this role twice and twice he has flourished, at Livingston and Hibs I felt he dropped in more to do a job for the team but here he was back to his more prominent best. Sure he missed two opportunities but he got his goal through persistence and for all I have been critical, missing chances isn’t something I will say against anyone because at least he is there to do that.
Calvin Bassey has been very strong at Centre back for a young man covering and clearly helped by Connor Goldson and Borna Barisic. He is strong in the press, strong in the tackle so doing a great job covering at centre back more than adequately. In turn Joe Aribo is influencing the games hugely going forward and is the heart of everything. Moving centrally and out wide he seems to be enjoying the roaming responsibility he has in the team. He’s someone that I have always been concerned would be the main target of Steven Gerrard if he came back to Rangers for some signings. If he keeps playing to this level then I have no doubts teams will be interested but that can only benefit us because he will have to keep to this level.
So it has been promising and enjoyable so far, as I said I really enjoyed the performances at Livingston and Dundee in particular. As we head to France we have the luxury of being able to change things up so I wouldn’t be surprised to see several changes. Goalkeeper, Right back, central midfielder and all three forwards could be rotated but this will bring opportunities for the likes of Patterson, Roofe and maybe even Wright or Bacuna. It gives Gio the opportunity to see them and us the opportunity to see how they can handle things also.
It’s a promising start and it’s an enjoyable one, let’s hope it continues and whilst others seem to be grabbing the headlines I am happy for this team to fly under the radar because I remain convinced we are the strongest squad in the league. If the new management can continue getting the best out of them then we will hopefully continue to kick on.
Off to France we go….
Disappointing it is however to be once again writing on the subject of the lack of equal coverage of sectarian incidents in this country.
Kris Boyd being the subject of sectarian chants yesterday which was loudly heard to all on Sky Sports. That along with 90 minutes of a ‘sing along’ which included the add ons of ‘And the IRA’ as well as ‘Fuck yer Queen’ which could be heard loudly for all. Boyd, the subject of ‘Fat Orange Bastard’ chants before the match.
This is a country that got itself in a coordinated mess over a strip release at Rangers and a fake tictok video. Both of these incidents use to calculate a fake storm which was beyond sinister and that behaviour will forever show the coordinated attacks on this club and it’s supporters.
Dornan, Stewart and the rest of the noisy offended are no where to be seen after yesterday whilst they pretend that they haven’t heard anything. Bus companies are well aware of the outspoken nature of Dornan in particular who plays his role expertly. Outspoken when required and silent in others.
Let’s not pretend that these people aren’t hearing or seeing what is going on because they are but they aren’t interested in solving this or calling it ALL out because it doesn’t suit their very clear agendas or narratives, or dare I say it, instructions from others.
If there is a chance to put the boot into our club then they absolutely will. If there is a responsibility to highlight other incidents that are closer to home then you can forget it, they aren’t interested in fighting sectarianism unless it is a chance to get at Rangers.
Before I close I will say, as I always do, there is absolutely an element of our support that lets itself down but whilst they are held to a level no one else is, you can’t treat them differently to others. Because whether we like it or not, they will simply say ‘why should we bother’ and this is why it must be an even response to everything.
It clearly isn’t however.
The agenda, the narrative and the very clear stance the likes of Dornan and Stewart have taken is absolutely clear to all. If it’s Rangers and fake tiktoks or songs then they are all over it, if it’s anything else then it’s fair game and ignorance is bliss.
We see you alright, we see you.
Finally it’s also disappointing to be commenting on Dave Kings comments this morning which have appeared in the tabloids.
First of all, anyone speaking to the Daily Record, when the club are clearly at odds with the publication, need to reconsider their priorities. This is a publication that have not hidden their hatred towards the club and our support, their recent gutter reporting towards our own fan media fresh in everyone’s mind.
Secondly, King certainly shouldn’t be airing any conflict or negative comments towards the club with them especially, they would have been rubbing their hands with it. What is even more peculiar is King, who is so heavily involved with club 1872 and using them to buy his shares, would use a publication Club1872 have so vocally told the support not to use, indeed have publicly campaigned against them.
This is extremely poor by King and as much as I have every respect for him, he is losing it rapidly with his actions since leaving the club.
The last thing we need is headlines of supposed rifts between boardroom figures making the papers in the gutter rags that hate us. King should know that and keep his cards closer to his chest because none of that is making anyone want to buy his shares. It’s not helping anyone and it leaves a bad taste in everyones mouth.
This tirade, aimed at the clubs treatment of 1872 and Graeme Park, leaves us all scratching our head. What exactly his gripe is with Park is unclear and whilst he has the right to vote accordingly, running to that mob with his gripes isn’t helpful.
Seemingly this situation with Club1872 and our club isn’t helpful either, King should know his audience much better than demonstrated here.
I will forever be grateful to King for everything he has done but let’s not pretend that his actions since, which include making a lot of interest from our club, benefit anyone other than Dave King first and foremost.
At a time when this board, John Bennett and Douglas Park primarily, are supporting the clubs very structure (as he did previously), taking such a public aim at them is extremely poor as it is misguided in a publication that takes pleasure in hating our club and support. By swiping at Park Jnr does he not think that may irk everyone else or is that the intention? If it is then it is again misguided to the current supports feelings.
If King wants to uphold his legacy then he needs to be careful of his next steps, taking such a public aim at the club and this board doesn’t help anyone, let alone his desire to sell his shares which stand very little chance of success currently.
Whilst he famously said it’s always about the club first, perhaps he should consider if his actions are currently that.
Here is a clue Mr King, this isn’t it nor is it helping.
Good luck to the team and management as we head into a crucial period, keep up the good work, we are all with you.