Assessing Rangers’ win in Croatia – how convincing was it?

Assessing Rangers’ win in Croatia – how convincing was it?

It’s not felt overly often recently that we get to see signs of true tangible progress – after all, with all the false dawns we’ve had these past six years, only the most gullibly optimistic would now ever think everything looks rosy at any given point, until, that is, that fabled, sweet, quintessential moment arrives where it becomes indisputable that the Rangers we expect are back, and truly pushing Celtic for the title.

We’ve had the 10 Weeks of Warburton; that wonderful period between his debut at Easter Road and just before that gubbing by St Johnstone where we actually thought we were Barcelona and truly reckoned we’d take the SPL with Rob Kiernan and Jason Holt.

We’ve had the Pedro Progress, where we ‘actually won at St Johnstone’ and both Carlos Pena and Graham Dorrans played well, deluding us into thinking his squad was any good.

And of course the Murty Mirage, where late January through to early March even had some of us on Ibrox Noise fleetingly believing the nonsense about our youth coach.

So not just a pinch of salt but an entire sackful of Saxa is required to ever swallow anything about corners being turned.

We need, truly, six months of a genuinely believable run before we can start to herald the dawn of a new age, and we’re not going to be subsequently idiotic and lavish anything upon last night’s admittedly very impressive win in Croatia.

But it would be equally amiss not to be pleased with what we did see, and what progress was evident. Taken on its own terms, and nothing more, this was the most organised Rangers display we’ve seen for quite a while. We have even heard ‘tactical masterclass’ from some of our more enthusiastic readers, and where we clearly wouldn’t go as far as that, there’s no question Steven Gerrard did set his men out correctly, and did a good job of snuffing out Osijek’s most dangerous attacks.

The main talking point has without doubt been defence. It’s no longer ‘only Bury’ or ‘mere Shkupi’, but this time a clean sheet was against a side who put two past PSV with no reply, and who finished a solid fourth in Croatia.

Are Osijek Real Madrid? Of course not, but they were a significant upgrade over Shkupi and a friendly against Bury and the toughest side Rangers have faced in competitive football in a long time, and without doubt the defence coped outstandingly with (almost) everything thrown at them.

Yes, Katic gave one or two balls away, and yes, Flanagan nearly gave the assist of the year to them, while Tavernier wildly missed at least two headers and got caught out of position (as usual), but the reliable Connor Goldson has quietly become the critical glue that is holding defence together and as long as he’s around, the rest seem to work well with him, and each other.

Midfield is still misfiring, in truth, and Morelos’ excellent goal aside Rangers’ attack was still a bit static and lacking in edge (especially the struggling Murphy who is still offering only minimal productivity), but as another Ibrox Noise observer points out, Gerrard announced defence as priority when he joined, and to that end Rangers are at the beginning of looking like progress has been made. Is it Hutton, Weir, Cuellar etc? Maybe not quite – there is some way to go before a back four with two international caps between them can be trusted as the solution we’ve sought. But it does appear for now to be a much more robust prospect than others we’ve tried. We’d guess that’s what £5M buys you.

As for the rest, yes, a work in progress. The midfield three last night were more convincing than Ross McCrorie has been, but then they had each other for help, while McCrorie had no one – that said, none of them had particularly spectacular matches individually and it’s evident that while defence is on the right tracks, midfield needs both time and work.

Attack too is rough. Kent showed signs of life, but is still raw, while Murphy is not imposing himself at the moment. Morelos finally sparked to attention after a borderline infinite hibernation, but then the cynics on Ibrox Noise (and we’re meaning you readers) claim it’s because he’s got a certain Nigerian breathing down his neck.

And that’s a good sign – he’s required serious competition, and if it took that to get the fire back in his belly, so be it.

As for Gerrard, he is having to learn fast and learn clinically. When news broke early yesterday that Windass was indeed to be benched, along with McCrorie and Candeias (the former two we saw coming, the latter was a surprise), he showed the ruthlessness he’ll need if he’s to succeed.

While it was arguably Gerrard’s own mistakes which led to Windass and Candeias being so poor (both evidently out of position), and indeed acknowledged by the change in shape by the manager, we have only respect for someone who is capable of doing that – accepting something isn’t working and changing  it. Warburton, Pedro and Murty wouldn’t – they all knew better.

And no, before you all claim we’re changing our tune (again) and fawning over Gerrard, we’re not. We just always give credit where it’s due. And for the mistakes we’ve accused him of making previously, he got most things right last night.

He and the squad have a hell of a long way to go, for this was a solitary 90 minutes of the UEL qualifiers where back in the day we were casually in the group stage of such an ‘inferior’ competition. We shan’t praise too heavily, but then, we need progress, clear tangible performance and result-based progress.

We got some last night, and that’s a welcome sight.

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  1. 3 clean sheets in 3 European games is impressive by anyone’s standards. I think we need to be honest and realistic and even this early it looks to me as if Gerard is building a squad which will establish us as a clear second – but we are still somewhat short of being able to challenge Celtic over a season. I think it will take at least two more transfer windows to take us to a higher level. We have to remember that we’ve brought in 11players for around half the cost of what Celtic spent on Edouard.
    Positives. McGregor provides confidence between the sticks. You feel he is going to save it – and similar to Goram he gives the impression that it is a personal affront if anyone puts the ball past him. Goldson looks class and would probably walk into the Celtic defence. Coubailly has shades of Kanye about him and I hope rumours that we may have a buy option are true.Morelos demonstrated his worth to the cause and I can’t help feeling that if we (the fans) would get off his back and give him a little more adulation and support then it might just pay dividends. The other positive is evidence of Gerard’s ruthlessness if players don’t respond. Windass and Candeias now know that any coasting and disappearing for long periods will not be tolerated. And I don’t buy any out of position excuses. Windass has never found his true position and that is as much down to him and his (lack of) aptitude as it is any manager – and as for Candeias – we only have Pedro’s word/view that he is a winger, and he knew jack-shit!
    Let’s get firmly behind the management team and the players through good and bad -and that’s not blind loyalty -it’s simply what the team/club needs at this moment. Let’s go!

  2. I thought it was easy. I actually thought we would lose last night but still to concede a goal which is great. Gerard said he’d build from the back and looks like he is. The fact that windas started a few matches and now looks to be on the way out shows that Gerard is still getting to know the squad and will decide before the season starts who will be here and who wont

  3. The big plus for me is the construction of a defence that looks capable of defending. Some improvement in midfield and Morelos getting one chance and burying it is also a positive.I am still underwhelmed by our bench but the inclusion of the big Nigerian, Arfield, John, the young City defender and Dorrans alongside Middleton and McCrorie makes me even more certain that we're making good progress.

  4. Those guys we were playing last night were no mugs, that was evident. The way we played was similar to how we played under Walter in Europe when we went to the final. Not easy on the eye but as a solid defensive unit we were mostly great. My only criticism is that we weren't winning enough headers in the box. Tav as usual was putting amazing balls in the box but was all over the shop in defence.

  5. Fantastic result and 3 clean sheets excellent🇬🇧💪
    Never doubted Stevie G for a second always 100%,he must be best pleased with himself coming in as a new manager and getting results like lastnights
    Good to see the buffalo back on score sheet hopefully that will be the turning point for him👍

    LETS GO WATP 🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧

  6. Nice, balanced, article IN. The thing I would add was the obvious effort and application that was evident from start to finish. The Croats were technically superior, but frequently were left frustrated by the lack of space offered to them. Great tenacity and concentration from SG’s team – with, admittedly, a few mistakes thrown in.
    A good night’s work.

  7. The midfield looks better and everybody is raving about the defence,but I think there is still work to be done in that area,I N is spot on about Tavernier, and Flanagan does not look happy at left back, Gerard wants another center back and we need it,the osijec Nigerian striker had three clear headers from set pieces, we will not get away with that every week,and where are all the cynics that wanted to sell the buffalo, ran his heart out and got us a priceless goal.

  8. Very good reading…The Team is starting to take shape …I really hope Dorrans wants to get fit and produces what he is capable of I think he could be key…Windass will have to deliver or he is gone and young Mc Crorrie is still not at that level sorry …Onwards…Concentrate on us forget the Rotten Mob the OF games will take care of themselves

  9. Good reading guys…the Team is starting to shape and believe. I hope Dorrans gets fit and gives us what he has cause he could be key . Young Mcrrorie struggles still and he will hopefully learn…We need a proper no 10 to link play…Windass ????

  10. Overall, an accomplished performance, not once did I feel we could lose the tie… couple of scares which is to be expected in Europe, I feel once we start to get some consistency we can be firing on all fronts…

    Defence sorted, although I'm still not comfortable with Flanagan and LB…

    Midfield, work in progress

    Attack, to be continued

  11. Gerrard is NOT Walter Smith (let me say that first) but it was a very Walteresque European performance. Got the job done while not being that pleasing on the eye.
    I think people are getting carried away with the loan signings (THAT Coulibaly tackle). For everything good they did, they did something equally bad. Ejaria – losing the ball, Coulibaly – constant fouling in 1st half, Kent – poor decision-making. I would only start Coulibaly out of the three next week.
    All in all it was a good result, pleasing individual performances and visible progress from round 1. Let’s continue this progression next week.

    • thy got a lucky goal too much play in middle of the park not enough play going forward when the season starts we will be looking for a new manager by xmas

  12. A much more solid performance and an improvement on the previous 2 games. However, let's not get too carried away. Our defence gave up 2 or 3 excellent chances that would've been converted by a better team. We played too many long aimless passes out of defence. Our midfield never got going offensively and our wide players never really caused any problems. Outside of the goal we never really created too much and don't currently look like we will.
    Definitely better but so much more required. I agree with a previous comment that we need another two windows at least to compete. I don't say that in a disappointed way. I say it as a realist and acceptance that it's a long way back from where we were.

  13. The Team Still Needs Work but We are Definitely getting there! 😃👍


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