Rangers deservedly went through against Osijek despite a 1-1 draw at Ibrox last night. The team were excellent in the match, especially in the second half. The fitness work, new signings and approach Gerrard has implemented all looked very promising. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the foundations look strong.
From the match, there were a few talking points to consider. Let’s have a look at what those were.
If you’d asked Rangers fans before the season started who they expected to be key players, similar answers would have been given. Ross McCrorie, Jamie Murphy and Scott Arfield would have been among those names. Last night, the team played well, and only one of them was involved, and that was only for around 20 minutes from the bench.
Last season, players such as Holt, Halliday, Herrera and Hodson were the squad options. Against Osijek, players like McCrorie, Docherty, Sadiq, Arfield, John, Windass and Dorrans were either not involved or barely played from the bench.
And then there was the age of the players who were involved. Ejaria, Katic, Morelos, Kent and Coulibaly are all early 20s. Even experienced players like Goldson or Tavernier have years ahead of them. That will have been one of the younger sides Rangers have played in Europe in a long time.
One of the biggest issues last season was a lack of real options outside of a pretty predictable first XI. Right now, it looks like we’ll be much stronger that way this season.
Osijek spent the week between the two legs saying a hell of a lot to try and wind Rangers up. On the pitch, there were little flashpoints and moments where they clearly tried to expand upon that. Gerrard told us that the team was focused and would ignore that.
Forgive us, but football fans have heard that stuff before. We’ve all seen our team fall for mind games at some point. There were plenty of questions surrounding this before the match.
Rangers dealt with all of that excellently. Off the field, we kept it about ourselves. On the pitch, not one player shirked challenges or held back when put under pressure. There’s more leadership and responsibility on the park than there’s been in recent years. That alone should see a big improvement upon last season.
THE LOAN SIGNINGS
Fans often debate the utility of loan signings. Some see it as holding back our own prospects, others as a way to get players we couldn’t otherwise afford. This season, there were hopes for some quality loans from Liverpoor. So far, it’s been Kent and Ejaria, players maybe a level down from what was wanted.
On the evidence so far, though, both are shrewd signings. Kent is direct and has a really good delivery at setp pieces. Ejaria links up play excellently and looks to have a lot to his game that’s yet to come. Add in the obvious potential of Coulibaly, and the pace and unpredictability of Sadiq, and it’s 4 players we can be happy with.
In recent years, loan signings haven’t worked out. This season, it looks like the players brought in are of a better standard than what we’ve had recently.
What did you think of the game? Any comments on the above? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts.