Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Rangers Are Ready For Next Season As Gerrard Will Have Everyone’s Support

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Kenny Stewart
Chief Football writer for The 4th Official. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.

Rangers drew with Arsenal in a pre-season friendly yesterday. The game was organised to commemorate the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

I watched it on TV and thought it was an excellent exercise. Rangers players were forced into plenty of running by a typical Arsenal side that keep the ball for fun with some superb players in their ranks.

My hunch is that Arsenal will finish top 6 in the Premier League next season. They’re a top outfit and one that will improve if they give Mikel Arteta the time required to tweak his squad and tighten that defence.

A two all draw with Rangers scoring twice from set-pieces tell you where the North London side’s problems lie. Defensively they need to be much improved and if they can get that sorted they’ll have a fine season.

Rangers were without 7 or 8 players for the match and each and every 1 of them would improve the 1st 11 that started yesterday.

I was talking to my son about the game last night and he’s a bit frustrated about the fact there’s a fair few in the squad who simply aren’t going to feature due to simply not being good enough.

My take on that is hopefully a number of them will depart before the transfer window closes this summer. The raft of substitutions in the 2nd half left Rangers well short of the ability required but they did manage to get themselves back in front with a well taken goal from Cedric Itten.

I do expect the big fella to push on this season, I like him, there’s a very decent player in there and I would love to see him do well at Rangers.

John Lunstram did well, the new signing being a vital cog in midfield where Arsenal kept the ball very well and zipped it about making Rangers chase them. However, when Rangers did get the ball, I thought they looked pretty good, to be honest.

Fashion Sakala didn’t feature yesterday, the game coming too early as he only started training towards the end of the week just gone. I would hope to see him get some minutes in his legs in 1 of the games next weekend when Rangers face Real Madrid and Brighton at Ibrox.

Rangers will likely mix it up over those 2 fixtures and play 2 totally different teams with the whole squad getting plenty of game time.

The Brighton game, although less glamorous would likely have shown us a bit more of where Rangers are actually at in terms of fitness and quality etc as they’re a well established top tier outfit in England while Real Madrid is much more of a spectacle. I think Madrid won’t play too many of their 1st 11 but will still keep the ball for fun.

That game’s caught the imagination of the Rangers fans obviously and it’ll be so nice to see a club of that standing turning up at Ibrox.

Pre-season is all about getting fit, nothing more and nothing less. Over my years of watching Rangers, I’ve seen teams have amazing results in pre-season, and then have horrific seasons and vice-versa.

I don’t read into the results of friendly games at all. They mean nothing, you don’t get any points or go through to the next round in friendlies so let’s see how well Rangers start the season before making any judgements on them.

Steven Gerrard is in a position for the first time to tinker and tweak with his team. Formations and tactics can be tried for the 1st time while Gerrard is the manager due to not having a European qualifying tie to navigate until after our domestic season starts. I trust that will stand Rangers in good stead for the upcoming season.

Joey Veerman
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It’s being reported that Rangers have a definite interest in Joey Veerman of SC Heerenveen. The midfielder is highly rated and valued at €10 million by his club.

If, and it’s a big if, Rangers could get that signing over the line, then it would be a massive coup for them frankly. Veerman is attracting interest from a number of clubs in the so called ‘big 5 leagues.

From where I’m sitting, it appears that he’s the man Steven Gerrard wants to bring in as a ready made replacement for Steven Davis. Davis is 36 and his career is coming to an end while Veerman is 22. In truth, I haven’t seen too much of him but from what I have seen he looks like a very special player indeed.

Lundstram being that box to box midfielder also looks like a straight swap for Scott Arfield and Fashion Sakala being able to play anywhere across the front 3 having played as a winger and as a number 9 for Ostend last season means Rangers are already planning for the season after this 1. If Alfredo Morelos does go, or they get offers they can’t refuse for Glen Kamara, Rangers are well placed for it not to affect the balance of the team too much.

That’s a wonderful position to be in and in all honesty, makes me look back on the last 3 years since Steven Gerrard took over as Rangers manager. It really does make you think about how far the club has come in such a short time. Rangers are ready for next season going by all these metrics.

The progress has actually accelerated since Ross Wilson came in as Director of Football and I have genuine confidence in how the club sees things these days. Wilson is doing a tremendous job and fair play to the board in backing Wilson and Gerrard to the hilt. Lundstram is rated as an 8 figure player down in England and Sakala would go for a fair few million euros if he was under contract.

Veerman would be the most exciting acquisition in many years if Rangers could persuade him to ply his trade in Scotland for 2 or 3 years. If he progresses further, as I would expect him to, the player would an incredible asset to the football club.

If I were another manager of a football club in Scotland, I’d be a bit concerned about the way Rangers are going about their business. They are looking not only to this season but the season after that with the signings they’ve made so far. While others have a major rebuild on their hands and look to be signing players from here, there and everywhere, Rangers have a strong, technically good squad that needs only a touch of tinkering here and there.

If offers come in for players and the Rangers board find they can’t refuse those offers or players’ wish to leave, then Rangers fans know who is signing their players. They trust in Gerrard and Wilson and they have confidence in their ability to spot a player. They then trust the club’s board to get deals over the line. If the deal can’t be done, then there’s a faith that it wouldn’t be right for the club.

That’s an amazing position to be in. From top to bottom the club looks to working for 1 purpose and 1 purpose alone, to make Rangers stronger and to make them a better team.

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