Rangers’ European adventure continues following last night’s surprisingly comfortable 3-1 over Slovenian giants Maribor.
Ibrox Noise takes you through all the things we think we noted during another productive 90 minutes in Govan.
1: Even our weaker apparent lineups still produce the goods. While Steven Gerrard selected a slightly underwhelming-looking XI, it still completely did the business as convincingly as it had v Osijek. The squad depth is starting to look good. Very, very good.
2: Jon Flanagan is an interesting player – he appears a little consistent. From his imperious display at Pittodrie, his level definitely dipped yesterday. Not awful by any stretch, but definitely not as good as he was on Sunday. But then, we can’t expect perfection all the time.
3: Steven Gerrard seems, match by match, to be having a positive effect on Alfredo Morelos. The pettiness is still there, and the look of a man who found a tenner but lost £20, but it’s reducing. It is definitely getting less. He continues to work hard deeper, and while both of his ‘goals’ (including the disallowed one) were pretty scrappy at best, he seems to be back in the scoring habit now. He was outstanding in Croatia, and rather good last night too.
4: Defence was the least convincing it’s been since Gerrard became manager, but it was still good enough. Goldson looked solid enough but Katic had a few hairy moments, alluding again to the fact he still has a lot to learn. We love both of them but that was definitely the most pressure it’s gone under, and Allan McGregor had to bail them out a few times.
5: James Tavernier seems to be seriously improving as a player. Steven Gerrard may be having an effect on him too, because he appears far more focused on defending now than he has… ever. He still attacks with gusto, but he’s now reading the game much better and positioning himself better. The improvement, like Morelos, is there game by game, and even when he looks highly advanced on the pitch, he is now learning to get back more quickly and anticipate attacks. He was pretty impressive last night.
6: Coulibaly is a messy wee player. He had a gritty fighting match last night, and was in the wars a few times, but he really does do the ugly running and work no one else wants to. Maribor’s midfield barely got a second because of him, and while technically his game is lacking, his heart isn’t. He reminds us very much of a young Rino Gattuso.
7: Ejaria is struggling. He just isn’t gelling in this team yet at all, albeit we have suggested a few times he’s playing out of position. He looked cumbersome and lost, and appeared to be in the wrong place most of the time. He has some talent, but right now it’s not showing.
8: We’re not much convinced about Ryan Kent either. He seems at this point very similar to his team mate Jamie Murphy – lots of dribbling but no end product and a lack of connection with his team mates. Hopefully SG can get the best from him and Ejaria in due course.
9: The three goals Rangers have conceded this season; one deflection, and two unstoppable finishes. To score against us right now you need luck or a truly magnificent goal, and that speaks volumes for how tight Gerrard has got us at the back now. Well played sir.
10: As magnificent as Ryan Jack has been recently, we didn’t miss him an iota – that’s a compliment to Arfield (another solid leading game) and Coulibaly who stepped up and delivered. This is a testament to how Gerrard has filled the squad out with enough players that the bench is the same strength as the XI.
Overall this was a Champions League level team (last season) we were against and we really played. It wasn’t perfection over the whole 90 but at this point in the playoffs that’s not gonna happen. The team is stepping up and right now, this is the best Rangers team since 2011. That’s a fact.