As the mainstream press have been so eager to highlight to Rangers manager Mark Warburton, the season, league that is, is nine matches old.
Formally speaking, Rangers have completed the first quarter of league fixtures, and, famously, have won all nine of them with some eye-popping stats along the way.
The Ibrox men have been so impressive that Warburton has managed a clean sweep of manager of the month awards, and two of his charges, James Tavernier and Martyn Waghorn scooped August and September’s player equivalent.
However, as the Magic Hat has always preached, there is room for improvement, room for the team to do things better, and as such, here is a guide to what those areas could be.
It has been pretty solid – after all, it has only let in a paltry five goals in the league, but it was cruelly exposed by Tommy Wright’s St Johnstone who nabbed three, and even the first competitive match of Rangers’ season shipped two at Easter Road.
Rangers play a high pressing line which can expose the two CBs (Wilson and Kiernan) to fast counters. The defensive duo are not the quickest around, and nippy players get joy. It is not immediately apparent how this gets fixed, but against superior teams (SPL, essentially) Rangers risk being undone. There was improvement v Falkirk, where the back two seemed more positionally resolute and blocked more attacks, but how much has been learned from St Johnstone will only be truly known once Rangers play a team of that calibre again.
Another defender or two:
With only Dominic Ball and Fraser Aird as defensive cover, Rangers are threadbare should there be an injury or suspension. Aird is the only full back deputy, and with just Ball to cover Kiernan and Wilson Rangers are in plain need of another one or two defenders. A utility CB/FB who can cover both slots would probably fit Warbs’ strategy of a lean squad, leaving Rangers with a total of seven defenders. That would probably be enough.
Rangers simply do not have a defensive midfielder. Andy Halliday has played as an auxiliary DM and has done a fair old job there, but it is not his best position nor does he pretend it is. John Eustace will never be fit enough to cement a regular place as Rangers’ anchor, so the reality is Rangers need to sign a new one in January. Jonathan Douglas was heavily linked, and could be signed on a pre-contract in January (deal with Ipswich expires in June) – with Rangers’ existing resources being enough for the Championship.
A plan B:
Do Rangers need one? As Warburton said ‘the best plan B is to do plan A better’. But it was pretty evident against St Johnstone and even v Falkirk that having a second strategy in emergencies might not be the worst idea ever. Quite what that strategy would be should be left to far smarter people than I, but it might be worth having a contingency.
There may be one or two other areas to nitpick, but the fact things are going as well as they are with the above flaws regardless shows just how well equipped Rangers are these days.