Friday, 17 August 2018

Welcome back Rangers, we've missed you....

After last night's extraordinary events in Maribor, eight games without defeat starts to truly present a stunning question;

Have Rangers stumbled upon an absolute gem in Steven Gerrard as manager?

The slightly unconvincing displays v Shkupi aside, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side have been simply imperious in all six competitive matches and equally as impressive v Bury and Wigan – in a way we simply haven’t seen since Walter Smith.

It really is starting to look pretty extraordinary now – Rangers masterfully controlled two legs against the typical Slovenian champions with every player delivering for his manager, in a style of management which is starting to remind yours truly of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone.

The manager standing smartly dressed at the touchline as the players step up and appear willing to run through brick walls and over a few beds of nails for their Legendary manager – and this happened again last night.

Ryan Jack bossed defensive midfield – sure, a couple of loose passes, but his overall display picked up from where he left off at Pittodrie, while Scott Arfield managed central midfield magnificently as he is starting to do more and more, not to mention Ovie Ejaria’s unflashy but extremely functional display beside them.

Defence did see a few breaches, of course it did – this isn’t Shkupi any more, this is pretty much the best team in Slovenia, and of course they were going to get a few shots in – a couple of slight Katic lapses and the occasional penetration – but the stunning Allan McGregor was a match for anything they threw at him.

And Alfredo Morelos worked like a dog up front, while Jamie Murphy put in by far his best display this season. Welcome back Jamie, good to see you again sir! Daniel Candeias didn’t get to truly express himself as an attacking force but worked endlessly himself in the middle.

Work. Work. Work. This is the difference  under Steven Gerrard, a frankly Walter-esque level of difference.

When it was Shkupi we were critical – it wasn’t that impressive, but it’s gone eight matches without a loss and while some fans may still want to argue it’s early (and they would still be right), that’s six legs in Europe Rangers have bypassed without being even close to a loss, and only FC UFA stand between Steven Gerrard and a quite extraordinary start to life as Rangers manager.

We have to admit we’re slightly lost for words – we appreciated the BBC’s take:

“Maintaining that (run) against Ufa, who are currently sixth in the Russian top flight, would take Gerrard's growing reputation as a coach to even greater heights.”

Alistair Lamont’s take:

“This was another example of how Rangers have grown under Gerrard. They managed the game superbly, absorbing Maribor pressure, killing their momentum and limiting them to relatively few chances. Gerrard has his players well drilled, with each of them knowing their role with and without the ball.”

We’re in a place after two months of Gerrard none of us expected. A lot of us had high hopes but the progress we’re seeing is looking like proper Rangers.

Bear in mind there was no Barisic, Coulibaly, Flanagan, Wallace, Dorrans or Rossiter to call upon.

We read the amusing defeatist Rangers fan responses to the team announcement on twitter (have a look yourselves) and really wondered why they don’t yet remotely trust Gerrard?

While the operation is not entirely complete yet, this is starting to look serious, folks.

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