Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Some Ugly Truths Rangers Need To Confront After The Thrashing At Celtic

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

Note: This article was published first on The 4th Official Patreon.

Where do you start with that embarrassment of a performance on Saturday?

To suggest it reminded us of the Pedro Caixinha and Graeme Murty days doesn’t do what we witnessed in the first Old Firm game of the season any justice.

From the goalkeeper, defence, midfield and front three, there wasn’t a pass mark among them.

Beaten by hunger, desire, pace, ability, speed of thought and anything else you care to think of is not and never has been acceptable.

Celtic turned up ready for a battle while Rangers walked into the game wanting to play the match at their slow, laboured and utterly again mundane pace.

Well, they weren’t allowed to. Make no mistake, this is a very good Celtic side. One that has an eagerness to destroy any and every team that goes onto the pitch against them.

They are a confident, attacking and well drilled side. They press with belief, they go at opponents with a determination to score as many goals as they can.

Fair play to them, they showed Van Bronckhorst’s side up for what they are. A complacent team with a fair few of their supposed better players off form and simply not contributing as they need to right now.

I knew what I was going to see, every Rangers fan did. We didn’t have to think too far back to an almost identical performance toward the tail end of last season where Rangers didn’t see what was coming.

Well, both teams replicated that night in February. The game was done and dusted by the half hour mark where a rampant Celtic were two goals up and clearly looking like they were going to extend their lead.

Rangers got what they deserved. A hiding, a serious doing to be brutal about it.

Players switching off, not getting close, not tracking their markers and when they did get the ball, did next to nothing with it.

The goalkeeper had one of those Ian Andrews type nightmares that can happen in this fixture. He’ll do very well to recover from this. How he copes is one thing, how the fans see it is another thing altogether.

The back four, well they’re now making an unhealthy habit of losing goals, easy goals I must add, by being weak defensively in the fullback positions. Jota and Abada had a field day and frankly, I’ve lost count of the number of goals Rangers have conceded from crosses ending up at the back post for a tap-in.

The midfield started with three holding or defensive midfielders. Lundstram and Davis with Kamara playing the attacking role. It didn’t work and I can’t really recall Kamara in that forward roll ever actually working, domestically anyway.

The front three were pretty anonymous. Ryan Kent is becoming an enigma wrapped up in a mystery. Plenty of ability but barely achieves anything of note in any games these days. Colak was isolated and Tilman simply isn’t a right sided forward, never mind a winger.

Square pegs for round holes. That’s what this was. There are so many players unavailable that Van Bronckhorst has Sands at left centre back, having to play both Davis and Arfield, who came on as a substitute, Kamara in the wrong position and Tilman in a role he clearly doesn’t know how to play.

How can we have two right wingers available for that shambles yet one is on the bench and the other, a new signing for the best part of two and a half million pounds not even making the squad for the game?

Why are we playing a new player, a kid no less in their position? For me, it shows clearly that the manager feels Matondo is nowhere near ready for the level we are required to play at. As for Scott Wright, decent player but limited.

The back four were given a chasing. Connor Goldson has started this season in dreadful form. Truly awful actually. The full backs are being stifled by this passing from side to side nonsense we are being made to endure every single week.

The midfield is full of players that play in such a similar way that if and when it needs altering, there’s literally nothing there to change the shape or the way the game is going.

On the forward line, it’s an honest truth that barring Morelos and Colak, there’s virtually no goals in the players he can choose from.

Whether it’s Wright, Matondo, Kent, Sakala or anyone else, they’re not contributing enough, not in any way.

I can accept Rangers being beaten by a better side, I’ve never had an issue with that. What I can’t be doing with is players not doing what’s required of them or what’s needed of them.

I lost count of the number of times Rangers players switched off or weren’t ready for a Celtic team playing at a pace they simply had no match for.

I’ve been saying it on this website for months, Celtic are a very good team with a manager that clearly knows exactly what he’s doing. As I said, that is now twice in three visits where Postercoglou has handed Van Bronckhorst his arse in that stadium.

That worries me greatly. After the game in February, Gio asked where was the intensity from his players. He got a reaction in the games thereafter last season only for them to turn up in that cauldron only to shit the bed. Again.

That’s now on Van Bronckhorst. Once is poor but when it happens again six months later, then questions need to be asked and answered.

Van Bronchorst’s record away from home in the SPFL is woeful. If I recall correctly it’s actually on a par with Paul Le Guen’s away game stats.

It’s clear to anyone who watches Rangers that they play very slowly, they start games at a snail’s pace and the back four see way too much of the ball. That needs fixed and fixed immediately. Get the handbrake off and start going at teams with a purpose that suggests you’re on the pitch to actually win the game you’re playing.

Saturday can be a watershed moment for the manager and his players but the fact of the matter is they now sit behind the eight ball in the league already. What they have to do is win every single one of their next eleven games in the SPFL and that’ll likely be just to stay within touching distance because I see nothing in any team in Scotland hinting that they can stop that Celtic juggernaut at the moment.

Questions need to be asked of Van Bronckhorst, Ross Wilson and the board at Rangers Football Club.

The manager needs to change his philosophy here or I just can’t see anything other than fans turning on him here. Domestically his team are too slow getting forward, struggling to break down the mystical low block, doesn’t score enough goals and concedes way too many. I thought he was all for this Keep The Zero mantra but reality is different from philosophy.

Defensively we look worse than when he took over in my opinion. We concede the same type of goals over and over again. This Rangers team is also capable of losing plenty of goals from set pieces. If keeping a clean sheet is so important then can we actually see that they’re working on these things? Stop crosses coming into the box, getting out quickly and properly attacking the ball when it’s in the Rangers box.

The midfield problems are down to Ross Wilson. Rangers finished that game on Saturday with Davis, Jack and Arfield on the pitch. That simply isn’t going to cut it here. It isn’t 2019 anymore and while Rangers simply haven’t addressed the most obvious of issues in their team their rivals across the city have strengthened with aplomb.

The jury is well and truly out on Ross Wilson. I trust that he and the Rangers board are fully aware of that. When a team ends a game on the back of a four nothing scudding without a single summer signing on the pitch in the first week of September then it’s perfectly obvious that questions are going to asked of the recruitment policy.

This situation with Wilson has now become a recurring theme, transfer window after transfer window over the last couple of years has seen very few improvements to the team. As I said Davis, Jack and Arfield all on the pitch at the end of that game suggest there’s a major problem in who’s being brought in.

I’ve seen a fair few say that’s down to financial constraints or financial fair play restrictions but I’d ask if that were the case why sign two projects in Yilmaz and Matondo for a cost of seven million quid when a top class midfielder was a priority for every single Rangers fan I’ve talked to for about two years?

Both these kids might well come good of course but if there are financial implications involved here, then questions must be asked of where best to spend the little money that’s available.

Van Bronckhorst said he was happy with his squad and I wouldn’t expect him to say anything else. But no one can genuinely believe that he wouldn’t have taken a player better than he already has at his disposal and that’s my point regarding how best to allocate what money is available because the signing policy looks somewhat slapdash from where I’m sitting.

Finally, it hasn’t been a good week for the current incumbents of that Rangers boardroom. While monumentally shafting the support for their Champions League tickets they spent not one penny in the last couple of days of the transfer window.

The optics here are horrific for them. In a year where the manager has brought in unprecedented monies from his European exploits, the boardroom has effectively stuck two fingers up at him, his staff, the players and most importantly the fanbase.

It’s always a decent idea to reward fans’ loyalty when you’re effectively getting free money, Mssrs Park, Bennett et al.

To spend zero, not even on a loan signing till January when there’s so many players out injured and for other reasons while bleeding your customer base dry for tickets, season books, mygers, merchandise and everything else is a very, very bad look and an enormous own goal.

That decision to not reward Van Bronckhorst or the support with an exciting signing, with the manager saying he was happy with his squad only substantiates my point regarding spending what little money they have on what is essentially prospect signings, neither of whom can get into the starting eleven with any regularity as of yet.

Perhaps a signing that actually improved the team would’ve been a better idea, surely?

All in all quite a horrific week for anyone connected to Rangers apart from their bank manager probably. Rangers are coining it in here yet what matters most is on the park.

The manager has delivered financially at least. He’s won the Scottish Cup and reached the Europa League Final. He’s perhaps surpassed that by putting Rangers back at the top table in the sport’s highest echelons, the Champions League. The money put into Rangers coffers is both sizable and needed but when you spend a mere fraction of it, and then things don’t go well on the park, expect criticism and bucketloads of it.

The Rangers board have made one too many monumental errors for a fairly high percentage of the support. That decision not to bring a player or two (as I said, even on loan) in the last day or so of the transfer window leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth of just about every Rangers supporter I know.

So, from the boardroom down, everyone at Rangers now has now been out under the microscope. That is what happens when you take your customer base for granted, don’t reinvest even just a little of what is in effect free money that you haven’t budgeted for, then go and get a monumental shafting from your biggest rivals while being given a lesson on how to play fast, exciting football that leaves opponents trailing in their wake.

As I said, Celtic are a very good team indeed. I know it, the media know it, fans of just about every club they play against know it and I’m pretty certain our manager knows it.

I’m just perplexed as to why our board, our Director of Football and our players haven’t twigged to that fact yet.

The pressure is well and truly on and yet again for the football team I support it’s a mess of our own making.

Greed followed by complacency and a monumental collapse on the pitch that sees you go five points behind with only six games gone is not a good look.

Just bare this in mind… Rangers finished the season before last twenty five points ahead of their city rivals, they lost the league by four points last season and now sit five behind as it stands this season.

Just think of the points swing.. who is responsible for that power balance shift?

Is it the Rangers board who did not improve from a position of strength, the previous manager, the current manager or the director of football, or is it a culmination of all of the above while taking the rank and file for granted?

I don’t have the answer but one thing’s for sure, the pressure is well and truly on and time will tell.

They are distinctly second best and I take absolutely no pleasure in saying that but from where I’m sitting, we look to be miles behind and going backwards domestically. That’s the issue though, while everyone at Rangers seems uber relaxed, the fanbase feels anything but.

That was an absolute mess on Saturday. An embarrassing day for the fans but somehow a lot of us are getting the feeling that the people up at that football club are happy to coin it in in Europe while playing second fiddle domestically.

Not then, not now and not ever is that acceptable. Give yourself a right good shake, waken up and face some home truths Rangers.

I get a distinct feeling there are people up there running that football club that won’t back down, they’ll double down.

Over to you, Rangers. How do they respond to this and get themselves back on an even keel?

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