It’s always a bit depressing to have to talk about a defeat to that lot. When we’re being told they utterly dominated the game and we’re still miles behind, the evidence from Saturday doesn’t give us much to counter with. There’s a few questions raised by the performance, which I’ll consider below.
Firstly, is Caixinha the man for the job?
We’ve been here before. In fact, that might be a few times now. Some would say that points to a lot in itself. For me, I’m not of the opinion he should go just yet. However, there is a factor to consider that might just be the biggest reason for a change – luck.
Consider the games this seaon where we’ve dropped points or lost. The away tie to Progres saw us hit the bar three times. The Hibs game had some ludicrous refereeing that went against us. The draws with Hearts and Thistle weren’t great, but saw us miss some real sitters which would have won it. And on Saturday, a bit of luck would have seen us get the early penalty or equalise with that Morelos chance, and either would have made the game interesting from a momentum perspective. I’m not going to claim that Caixinha hasn’t made mistakes or that the results have been all down to luck, but quite often a manager’s mistakes will be covered up by a bit of good fortune. That’s 5 games now this season where it hasn’t went our way.
I used to think Alex McLeish was a bit of a lucky manager. Two last day title wins, one of which was very unexpected. Qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League due to a horrendous pitch in a game we weren’t involved in stopping a ball crossing the line. Last minute winners in cup finals, or opposing teams missing penalties which would have taken the game to extra time. When there was a moment where you had to just hope something went your way, he seemed to have a lot of it work for him. I’m not downplaying his achievements at Rangers, but there’s justification for saying a lot went his way. Caixinha so far would seem to be very much the opposite.
This squad needs a run of wins, some confidence and a bit of belief. Those things go a long way to turning moments around, to giving a positive mindset to a situation that somehow sees the coin toss go for you. If Caixinha is the sort of guy who just doesn’t get that luck, he’s not going to survive long at Rangers.
Secondly, there’s been a lot of talk about the Celtic fans and the allocation they get. I’m going to say something that most won’t agree with – I kinda enjoy the atmosphere that can come from having a big away support at Ibrox. I don’t want to listen to their songs, or ideally hear them at all, but if a game is tight or exciting, it’s good to have the conflicting voices dragging more out of each other. Some would ban their fans altogether, but I remember the one time that happened, and the game just felt strange.
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We won’t see the allocation change any time soon I’d imagine. The police want it to work the way it is, and that’s that. As annoying as it is, I can almost put the whole nonsense with holding on to the ball down to pantomime-style behaviour. The throwing of the flare at Foderingham, though, is inexcusable. I really don’t like the “pyro” thing in a crowd situation, and even less so when it’s aimed at someone. We seem too accepting of something that could be very dangerous, and I’d rather it was left out of football crowds. That’s just my opinion on it, and maybe I’m a bit too cautious there. The fan aiming it at our keeper wasn’t the first time we’ve seen that in a game though. There was even one launched at a referee during the Champions League games all the way to the halfway line. It’s something I’d like to see banned altogether, and clubs working harder towards doing that.
Lastly, just how far behind are we? I know it’s 8 points from Celtic and 6 from Aberdeen, but is that a fair reflection?
Seven games could be deemed a small sample size. We need to beat an average of 2 points a game to get a good amount of points this season, and right now we’d need to win our next three league games to get to the 2 point average. We have some real tests coming up in the next couple of months, and a chance to get to a cup final as well. What has been a poor start could be turned around, but is there any evidence that it will be?
In more hope than reason, I think we’ve seen some signs that the team has more in them. It has to be remembered that this Celtic squad is a 3 year project at least, and we’re a 3 month one. Deila held them back, but a load of their players have been given time and less pressure to settle which is unlikely to be the case for our current squad. There were no new signings in the Celtic team on Saturday, which was due to Rodgers knowing that the experience and settled nature of the team would be a big advantage. With Alves and Wallace out, we were even weaker in that regard.
We sit 5th right now, but I think it’s a false position. Aberdeen are grinding out wins in the league, but many feel their performances haven’t been great. Hibs and St Johnstone will drop a number of points between now and the turn of the year. We need to look at those teams and get in front of them as soon as possible before we consider just how big any gap is. If you believe this is as good as this squad will play over the course of the season, you have every reason to be despondent. I just feel we’ll be showing far more in the course of the next couple of months.