With the club already underway in both domestic and European action this season, we preview the current season ahead and where Rangers could finish.
It’s been a whirlwind few months at the club. Steven Gerrard has come in and had to clean up after Pedro Caixinha and Graeme Murty’s previous mess.
Fans have taken to the Liverpool legend like he’s one of their own, and Ibrox has been rocking in games so far. The new manager has brought an aura with him to Rangers, and supporters have been feeling that since he stepped in.
Immediately, Gerrard has spotted a host of areas in which replacements were necessary. A ruthless recruitment drive has seen 11 new faces come in, and there’s no signs it’s indeed finished yet.
However, there are three key players that Gerrard has recruited who are the key to challenging Celtic.
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Allan McGregor, Connor Goldson, and Nikola Katic all have huge roles to play this season. With a shocking amount of lacklustre defending over the last couple of seasons, Rangers supporters have seen enough.
Gerrard has put a strong element of trust into the back-line, it’s down to them to reward their manager for that through performances.
Too often in the past, teams have carved open Rangers through the middle of by stretching them. The defence was able to be got at through a host of ways last season, and that must be eradicated. The early signs are promising, but consistency is key.
Elsewhere, the likes of Scott Arfield, Lassana Coulibaly, Ryan Kent, and Ovie Ejaria look like solid acquisitions in the midfield. Another are where the Gers were too light last term, this quartet needs to add flair as well as grit.
Jamie Murphy was also signed on a permanent contract, but he’s had a slow start to the campaign. With the departure of Josh Windass, Murphy needs to be one of the players stepping up to the plate in terms of creativity. So far, he’s been one of the only negatives.
Many Premiership midfielders came to Ibrox last season and bullied Rangers around. However, with Coulibaly in particular, that doesn’t look like it’ll be a big problem this season. The on-loan Angers man flies into challenges and simply hates coming out without the ball. He’ll be another key man as the season progresses.
Umar Sadiq is the only forward that Gerrard has brought in, and hasn’t yet shown what he can do. The big striker scored on his debut against Wigan, and needs to help take some of the burden off of Alfredo Morelos.
Sadiq, who is also on-loan from Roma, looks to be a good target man, something Rangers haven’t had since Kyle Lafferty was at the club. Kevin Kyle and Francisco Sandaza certainly don’t count.
It remains to be seen what Borna Barisic from Osijek provides, but he looked mightily impressive in the two games against Rangers for the Croatians.
Finally, Jon Flanagan hasn’t been playing in his usual right-back position since he signed, but that could be about to change. The former Liverpool man has strong experience, and with Barisic looking to make the left-back slot his own, Flanagan could switch to the right.
This could mean Tavernier has a more advanced role, but Rangers need a big season from their new captain wherever Gerrard puts him.
Combined with the signings, Rangers have managed to ship off a host of deadwood.
Carlos Pena, Jason Holt, Greg Docherty, Ryan Hardie, and Joe Dodoo are all out on loan. Bruno Alves was released, whilst Declan John and Josh Windass both departed for Swansea and Wigan respectively for over £2.5million.
Gerrard has yet to choose a settled formation, as he still tinkers with several set-ups to find his favourite.
It looks as though the club will continue to play with a lone striker, with a flat back four also not in doubt. However, how Gerrard utilises the midfield talent is going to be an intriguing side-story moving forward.
Ultimately, Rangers want to be challenging for the title. They’re sick of Celtic’s dominance, and want it to end quickly before 10-in-a-row for the Parkhead side is in sight.
Is it unrealistic to do so this season? Not necessarily.
Rangers have struggled in the past few years to get the better of the lesser sides in the division. Meanwhile, Celtic failed to win more than three league games in a row last season. The slip-ups are therefore there for Gerrard’s men to capitalise on if they can get some consistency going.
Where Celtic looked invincible two years ago, they certainly didn’t last season. They were there for a challenge for those who dared to try.
Rangers can be that daring side this season if they can find high consistency levels.
However, a strong second – a phrase many Gers fans will roll their eyes at – would be great progress. A successful season would also need to see at least one cup return to Ibrox.
In European terms, the group stages would be exceeding expectations, and anything Gerrard can do there is a big bonus for Rangers.
A terrific campaign will see a strong second and a cup returning to Ibrox. If Rangers play their cards right though, there could be an even bigger surprise waiting in store.