Thursday, August 11, 2022

Viva La Giovolution!

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History is a great indicator of what can come next. In the history of both Old Firm clubs, when one club is in a position of strength and then suffers an embarrassing result or the loss of a title, what comes next is that the other flex their muscle.

This summer in the transfer window, what we see from Rangers is their biggest response since the Dick Advocaat Dutch revolution of 1998. At that time, the late great Sir Walter Smith had already announced the season past would be his last. For many Rangers fans, our generation was spoilt by the success under Souness and Smith. And we were on new ground.

We had lost the league for the first time in 10 years; our great manager was moving on, and it was the end of the Laudrup and Gazza era. The summer of 98 was both exciting and filled with trepidation about the unknown. However, the Rangers board at the time backed their new man and every three days; a new player was coming into the club and that excited fans. And this summer from Rangers has felt very similar in terms of the speed of delivery of targets and the international quality they have signed.

On the other side of Glasgow, the last you could draw comparisons to how Celtic responded to being humiliated was under Rony Deila by Mark Warburton’s Rangers side in a Scottish Cup Semi-Final. Rangers, a Championship club at the time, spooked Celtic on the park and their Board Room.

To quote Mighty Mo at halftime while in pundit duties, “It was like watching Brazil”. With Rangers returning to the top flight, the following season, the Celtic board flexed their financial muscle at the time by bringing in Brendan Rodgers and backing their man.

This time with a successful run in the Europa League and the player trading model in full flow, it is Rangers’ turn to flex. It is my genuine belief that Celtic as a club underestimated the potential of Rangers to progress so far in Europe and their ability to secure large transfer fees for their players. Why else spend £17M+ converting loan players into permanent transfers and with the remaining budget buy one player, with the rest made up of loans and frees?

Only weeks ago, the Celtic manager spoke to the media and told them “two more”. They then signed Aaron Mooy on a free and Moritz Jenz on loan. Since then, Rangers have sold two players for an overall value of £27M and dived in to the market quickly and decisively to strengthen.

So it was no surprise to hear Ange Postecoglu’s comments the other day that they were suddenly “not done in the market” despite his prior comments and acquisitions. Ange was now saying, “it would depend on the right players and deals being available”.

He further said, “Celtic would have to be stronger if they wanted to keep their Champions status”.

If that isn’t evidence of being caught cold, I don’t know what is?

Chris Sutton’s piece in the Daily Record at the weekend gave me a good laugh, “ignore Rangers spending; we are fine”.

The issue facing Celtic and Ange are that Rangers are not done either, and if you suddenly decide you need more, you go back to the market with your original planned budget gone and you end up taking punts. In fact, you have less chance of securing a starting XI player to improve your team.

When you go to market reacting rather than as part of your pre-planning, it rarely leads to something good. Take it from a Rangers fan who endured it for nine years. You only have to look at Rangers’ business in January when they took a punt on Ramsey and Diallo in response to Celtic’s pre-planned January window.

Clearly, Celtic had a plan in place for months to tap the Japanese market when it opened. Rangers’ issue in January was a lack of time to plan. Gio had only been there a few weeks prior to the window, and January is a notoriously difficult market to navigate. Also, Rangers were looking unlikely to progress in Europe following poor results at the start of the group, and this made it difficult for the Board to know what potential cash was coming to release the purse strings.

Since then, an incredible run to the final, player trading and having the security of an automatic Europa Group spot regardless of what happens in the Champions League qualifiers have allowed the Board to commit monies back into the squad. It has allowed Gio and Wilson to cast the net further to identify higher levels of players and execute a proper transfer window plan. All those involved in budgeting and negotiating on players coming and going should be applauded for the deals done both ways. Disciplined and shrewd. My congratulations so far.

Last season Gio worked with what he had; he put players in new positions to play his system. An example being a tireless Aribo at CF in the absence of a striker. Lundstram dropped back further to cover at the back when the wingbacks went high. This was the move which transformed the player from a “waste of a wage” to “the best on earth”.

Therefore I, for one, am excited to see what Gio can achieve with the Players he wants for his system. We got a glimpse of it in a 30 minute spell in the second half against West Ham.

One touch triangles, breaking lines. Rangers were faster front to back, and more aggressive in the press. But more importantly, and not really spoken of since the game, they were comfortable playing out of tight spots at the back. There has clearly been a lot of work done pre-season in this area.

All in all, this summer is a flex of the muscle from Rangers that would have two-time world’s Strongest Man and Bear Tom Stoltman asking, “wow, do you lift, Bro?”

The reply: @stoltman_tom “Silverware Tom, Silverware”. (yes, this is an imaginary conversation before anyone decides to go and check on Twitter)

Viva La Giovolution!

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