Eleven games into the season, 12 new players, and a brand new coaching team. Rangers remain undefeated yet it’s crazy that the next two matches could make or break the season.
There is no doubt the collective group is an improvement on last season. However, there are many of the squad who are still there and need a big week to get rid of those failures of last season from their mindset. That is absolutely vital moving forward if we are to achieve any sort of success this campaign.
So far the start has been brilliant in Europe. Rangers are now just 90 minutes away from a place in the group stages of the Europa League. Even the most ardent of us Rangers supporters would have thought the groups would be a bridge too far at the end of last season. At this point, the team have exceeded expectations in that regard. However, if Rangers do not finish the job on Thursday, it will feel like a massive blow to the positivity surrounding the team at the moment. So it goes without saying that it’s now imperative that they manage to come home from Russia with a place in the group stage draw secured.
However, it’s Sunday’s fixture, rightly or wrongly that is occupying everyone’s mind; it’s fair to say that’s usually the case when Old Firm week rolls around. Unfortunately, Rangers didn’t manage to go into the game on the back of a win; the 3-3 draw at Motherwell threw up a lot of questions regarding the potential line-up and formation that Steven Gerrard will go with at Parkhead.
You have to imagine he will go back to a back four. If he doesn’t, I will be very surprised. During the Motherwell match, I don’t think the 3-5-2 worked well at all in a defensive sense. It’s no surprise that Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic looked as shaky as they have done in a Rangers shirt. Personally, I think the system had the Rangers defence confused. They were far too open and got exposed down the sides. However, at the same time, it wasn’t the fault of the system that Rangers conceded two poor goals from set-plays.
The three at the back can be used at times during the season, but for Thursday and Sunday, Gerrard has to stick with the Katic-Goldson partnership that’s served him well so far. These two matches, in particular, are not the time to experiment. Gerrard will know that. They are absolutely massive. And, even then, that’s not doing them justice in terms of how important they are.
If Gerrard and his men come out of this week with two favourable outcomes, the momentum and positive energy that’s been around the club keeps on gaining momentum. However, if results don’t go Rangers’ way, Gerrard will quickly find out how tough being a manager at Rangers can be. With the international week on the horizon, any potential post-mortems will be week-long. And, of course, the positivity bubble will have been well and truly burst.
Having said that, despite losing late goals in two of the three league matches so far, I believe in Gerrard, and I believe in this group of players. They definitely have the ability to help the club have a successful season. Many will go into this week with a point to prove – some taking on their first derby, others wanting to right the wrongs of the last two seasons. Others will want to make sure they are beating Celtic for the second time in a matter of weeks in Kyle Lafferty’s case.
Whatever the case for each individual player, this is where we do find out if the Rangers squad has it. This is what being a Rangers player is all about – one big game after another.
Even this early on, when Monday morning comes, we could be flying or have hit one big iceberg. Either way, we will have a clearer picture and a better idea of whether Gerrard – in this role as manager – and his players, most importantly, have the mentality to win trophies at this club. Let’s hope that when the week begins, there will be smiles on Rangers fans’ faces.