Monday, 9 July 2018

Assessment; Rangers, friendlies, and the SPL

This time last year Pedro Caixinha’s Rangers, ‘furnished’ with Niko Kranjcar and Eduardo Herrera, managed a truly impressive 1-1 draw with French giants Marseille.

Indeed, that false dawn drew us in, suckered us into thinking our non-entity Portuguese manager had nailed a magic formula and suddenly we might even challenge at the top of the SPL.

As we know in hindsight, this was as false an impression as it was possible to have so we are only too well aware of drawing any conclusions from friendly matches.

When we look at the difference between the performance in that match on the 22nd of July compared with the one at Fir Park only two weeks later for the start of the SPL, it becomes stark how little we can take seriously a friendly – the aggression, pace and physicality of our hosts that afternoon left all XI players Pedro had selected completely lost.

So with that in mind, with that cautiously in mind, we have to say what we saw on Friday was impressive. We draw no conclusions from it – we will measure much more accurately from the competitive action on Thursday against the Macedonians, but nevertheless as a dress rehearsal to see how our players would cope at Ibrox in front of 41,000 fans against a team likely to mostly defend, it went about as well as could be hoped for.

Youngsters excelled and scored, defenders looked robust and reliable, while midfield motored nicely.

A number of players really did have impeccable maiden bows on the Hallowed Turf, with Glenn Middleton, Scott Arfield, Jon Flanagan and Nikola Katic the pick of a very impressive bunch.

However the one huge thing missing from this match was aggression – not from Gerrard’s men – they worked hard and had clear hunger. But Bury were evidently not at Ibrox to put in a blood and thunder shift, and, coupled with their lowly League 2 status, were hardly a litmus test to take overly seriously.

The SPL will be a different planet with regards aggression – we already know how physical our domestic league is so these more powderpuff friendlies can only help so much. Even Thursday’s UEL curtain raiser by comparison with what awaits us at Pittodrie next month will be modest, but certainly we can judge better on competitive action.

That all said, we were still extremely pleased with the display last week – a Rangers team did what a Rangers team should – ruthlessly slaughtered a diddy team on our home patch, regardless of the match’s context.

They played some good football and showed Gerrard’s ideas in full flow – fledgling, true, and we’re sure he’ll vary it plenty, but it was insightful.

There’s a good feeling around Ibrox right now, probably the best we can remember since that illusion in February. Here’s to it continuing.

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