Defeats at the hands of Celtic and Aberdeen coupled with draws against Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Ross County (twice) leave Mark Warburton and his side facing an impossible challenge to compete for the title and, on current form, earn a place in next season’s Europa League but is time running out for the ex-Brentford boss at Ibrox?
No, he’s got a plan
No-one can deny results haven’t been great but there’s still a long way to go in the season and, although everyone wants to win the title, finishing second will still be a successful season. There’s also the Scottish Cup which could bring some silverware this season and a place in Europe.
Barton’s signing hasn’t worked but, you’d have to think Frank McParland or Warburton will have spoken to his former boss at Burnley, Sean Dyche, and asked about his character and temperament. Losing Kranjcar to injury is a big blow but the likes of Jordan Rossiter, Jason Holt Josh Windass, Andy Halliday and Harry Forrester should be more than good enough for the Scottish Premiership. Joe Garner has made a decent start with a few goals so far and despite Martyn Waghorn not having a great time since returning from injury, Kenny Miller is still performing well beyond anyone’s expectation at his age. Clint Hill has brought some experience to the defence and if they can cut out the cheap goals given away from corners then we’re not that far away.
Despite failing to win a number of games this season second place is still well within reach and even though results haven’t went in Rangers favour we’ve more often than not dominated the game but been wasteful with the ball going forward. The game against Kilmarnock showed how clinical they can be and it’s just a case of getting players confident and in-form.
There’s things going on ‘behind the scenes’ like with the youth academy where a handful of promising youngsters from across Europe have recently joined the U20 squad as the club looks to improve an area that has been neglected for years. The appointment of Graeme Murty to manage to U20s should hopefully be a huge benefit with Murty highly-rated by Warburton.
It might not be pretty just now but given a little more time then all the hard-work being put in will start to show and Rangers will be in a better place than ever before. With a clear structure through the youth academy to the first team, quality young players coming through with good technical ability and a team more than capable of taking the title from Celtic, the club will be set-up for long-term success.
Yes, Time’s up
It’s the 6th on November and Rangers already trail Celtic by 11 points, having played a game more. With a tough run of fixtures coming up for Rangers before the Old Firm on Hogmanay it could well surpass the 17 points behind we were when Paul Le Guen was binned.
On the pitch it’s fairly depressing stuff. After watching the quick, pressing football of last year to now watch the lethargic, directionless stuff being served up this season it’s a massive worry. Even the games against Premiership opposition last season were largely comfortable. Both games over Kilmarnock, the win over Dundee and even the Hampden win over Celtic showed what the side was capable of but this season there isn’t that same level of performance. Key players like Martyn Waghorn, Lee Wallace and Barrie McKay haven’t put in anything like the performances fans came to expect 12 months ago and it’s clear to see in Rangers’ attacking play.
The new signings haven’t exactly set the world alight either. Joe Garner looks like he could be a decent player in a 4-4-2 but he definitely doesn’t suit the 4-3-3 insisted on by the manager. Joey Barton’s signing has ended in a farce (hands up, who’s shocked by that one?) and Niko Kranjcar is out for the rest of the season. Matt Crooks, Josh Windass and Jordan Rossiter have all had injury problems since signing, Joe Dodoo looks destined to be the new Nicky Clark and Philippe Senderos (after a longer trial than the Yorkshire Ripper) can’t even get stripped for a place on the bench away to Ross County. Clint Hill has been ok and Lee Hodson has been decent, if underused, and Matt Gilks is a good back-up to have but as a whole we’ve not done well recruiting players over the summer.
Tactically, something needs to change. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a manager having a preferred style and sticking to it but there needs to be a bit more flexibility in the sides shape. When opposition sides press Rangers they suddenly don’t have any idea what to do and how to break them down and it ends up with Rangers playing the ball back to the keeper from a throw-in in the other half of the pitch. Niko Kranjcar was probably the one player that could find that incisive pass to cut defences open but now he’s out with a torn ACL someone else needs to fill that role.
Warburton’s press conferences and interviews are getting tiresome too. “We’ll learn from it”, “the boys worked hard this week” and “we go again” are all fairly common football cliches but it gets ridiculous when you’re claiming to learn the same lessons for the best part of 6 months. Losing cheap goals at set-pieces isn’t something new, nor is being caught out by a quick counter attack, but Rangers seem more than comfortable repeating them over and over again.
Ally McCoist was panned for saying it at the time but Rangers managers don’t have the luxury of long-term planning. Rangers fans demand immediate success and with every passing game it looks further and further away.