A sudden, drastic and unexpected upturn in form towards the end of Rangers’ preseason has done a lot to lift some of the well-justified clouds hanging over Ibrox. But what have we really learned about Pedro Caixinha’s side? Well, exactly three positives and three negatives, it turns out.
POSITIVE: We look a lot better organised
Bruno Alves has clearly made a huge difference, but it would bring a tear of joy to a glass eye to see Rangers players finally ACTUALLY BOTHERING TO PICK PLAYERS UP when they track back, something that was a constant source of bafflement in the Mark Warburton era. Rangers gave up few chances against Sheffield Wednesday or Marseille and looked extremely solid more or less across the park.
NEGATIVE: With the possible exception of our attack
Eduardo Herrera has never been a goal-machine, but he seemed like he might be a significant upgrade on Joe Garner because he might actually know where to stand and how to attack a cross. We’ve not seen enough of that so far, and the attack is definitely an area where we need improvement. Jamie Walker could make a difference here, but it would be nice to see us be a bit more aggressive and canny in attacking the space in the opposition area.
POSITIVE: We’re gelling very well in places
Outwith the aforementioned hopeful improvements in attack, it seems probable that Pedro Caixinha’s Rangers team will be built on the very solid foundations of two highly promising partnerships - Bruno Alves and Fabio Cardoso in defence, and Ryan Jack and Graham Dorrans in midfield. Both are comprised of two fine players, and both seem to complement each other and end up as more than the sum of their parts. If the four keep fit, we’ll have a very, very solid foundation to build around. Finding our formation - a good auld 4-4-2 - seems to have worked wonders.
NEGATIVE: Do we have the consistency?
Ryan Jack has been superb in several games, but he is nonetheless the same player that went AWOL in Luxembourg. Ditto James Tavernier - if these kinds of players can stay in good form, then they can be supremely effective. But they’re not wingers, or louche playmakers - they’re vital parts of the team that need to constantly be on it where substitutions can’t really be afforded. If they can’t do it every week, it’s a potentially fatal problem.
POSITIVE: The new signings all look good
Obviously it’s very early days, but last year’s window seemed promising before the utter disaster it was became very quickly apparent. This seems different. Bruno Alves has started very well and looks to be a genuinely transformative player, a lot better than last year’s equivalent, Mr Joseph Anthony Barton. Fabio Cardoso looks like he could grow into an excellent player and fetch a handsome profit down the line. Eduardo Herrera and Alfredo Morelos look fairly promising. Daniel Candeias has finally started showing what he can do. Graham Dorrans and Ryan Jack look like a huge upgrade on the old Halliday-Holt axis of clueless running around. The only real question mark is over the player who cost the most and we’ve seen the least of - Carlos Pena. Oh aye, Dalcio looks woeful but it’s only a loan, so never mind.
NEGATIVE: Can we turn possession into goals?
This is something of a different matter from the previous problem in attack. Last season’s attack suffered from the lack of a reliable goalscorer, and we still don’t really have one. We did have a player who, while deeply flawed, was at least a reliable creator of chances in Barrie McKay, and while a more holistic approach is theoretically a much better way to go about things, it’s not clear that we have a player who can do that anymore. Jamie Walker is undoubtedly effective, but we’ll have to hope that the team makes continued progress and clicks together into a better gear to really take things to the next level.