It doesn’t make any sense that Rangers have dropped twice as many Premiership matches in the last five weeks as in their 16-match, eight-month-long European campaign, which has produced a record of ten wins, and only one loss.
Last night’s Scottish Cup defeat by Hearts simply strengthened the sense of Rangers’ split personality that has baffled fans and pundits alike this season. The best betting platform had Rangers as joint-favourites to lift the cup this season.
“It is a difficult one because I know these players, when they are really in the zone and they are focused and respect the challenge in front of them, they are a match for anyone they come up against,” said Gerrard, talking ahead of the game at Tynecastle. “So at times it has been frustrating and despairing, if you like, when you analyse some of the results we have had. But look, it is what it is. Thinking about it and over-analysing it for too long is not going to help. It’s important you look forward.”
“But I think what Wednesday night shows is that when everyone is tuned in and everyone follows a game plan and really sacrifices themselves for the team and parks their ego, we are a formidable team. That is probably the best performance we have had as a group. It makes you feel really proud of the side. When we can get that consistently, I believe we will become a successful team.”
And therein lies the rub. By arriving at a last-16 tie against Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers have surpassed the most optimistic of expectations. The best online sports betting site have Rangers as the underdogs for this one – however, at the same time, their most pessimistic supporters would not have thought six months ago that they might be 12 points behind Celtic going into the final two weeks of the league season, and also knocked out of the Scottish Cup. However, for all that they had an excellent run towards the year-end that culminated in their victory at Celtic Park, they haven’t been able to compare to the champions in terms of consistency. Their longest league winning streak is five matches. Celtic have experienced three longer sequences – of which the longest was an 11-game run.
Braga matchwinner Ryan Kent’s proposition that the split personality of Rangers this season is owed to their underdog status in continental competition, which permits them to play with “less strain and less expectation”, was, nevertheless unwittingly, hardly a ringing endorsement. I don’t think talent’s enough,” added Gerrard. “They wouldn’t be asked to join us or come on the journey with us if they weren’t talented players. That’s one of the main ingredients you need, but to be successful and win when the competition is so challenging out there, you need players who have the right mentality, focus, standards and professionalism to go around the talent.”