Monday, 13 May 2019

Assessment: Rangers have Celtic worried. Very worried...


Let’s first of all get a huge caveat away – we are well and truly aware, just like in May 2007, that Celtic had nothing to play for yesterday at Ibrox beyond pride. Having already won the title they were possibly not in top gear, and we do account for that mitigating circumstance.

But then, equally, they had plenty to play for in December and Rangers completely blew them away.

In short, Rangers’ performance yesterday was absolutely outstanding. It was a continuation of recent form, benefits of this new system and formation, and it stopped Celtic dead in their tracks before they could even get going.

Just like in December Scott Arfield did a complete number on his namesake Brown, and just like in December Rangers dominated this match, only this time getting a more reflective scoreline.

Just like in December our defence was solid and that it took till well beyond 80 minutes and a tame Ollie Burke header before our guests got a shot on target is more of a reflection on just how well Rangers played, rather than any weakness from the visitors.

Just like last year, Celtic couldn’t handle Rangers – a flawless home performance in front of our fans and the away side were simply blown to smithereens.

We do stand by our pre-match assertion that little more than pride was resting on this one, but the level of performance from the likes of the excellent Glen Kamara, Arfield, James Tavernier, Jon Flanagan and Ryan Kent to name just five alluded to just what potential this squad is beginning to develop if it can achieve this post-split level of consistency over the course of the whole next season.

Only one solitary goal conceded against Hearts in the whole split so far, four tough games v Hibs, Hearts, Celtic and Aberdeen is an absolutely magical record – and to put away Parkhead’s finest in such a comfortable manner (again) is food for plenty of thought.

Of course, arguably captain Tav got a spot of luck with the opener – no one is going to convince us he meant that directly. But who cares? How good a team is and the strength of their character dictates how they respond to adversity, and Celtic failed to, while Rangers continued to evolve in this match.

Yes, the title was gone, and yes, Celtic have a cup final to be ready for too, but Neil Lennon’s face was not one non-plussed about losing to Rangers – this would have killed him inside, and frankly overtly too.

No, take this performance and result very seriously indeed.

Going by the past six matches, and we’d have to say we’d like to, we may have been very wrong in the times we’ve doubted Steven Gerrard this season.

His system and team are absolutely nailing it at present, beating everyone out there. The only test left barely even matters in the form of Killie away – lose that one and we can still say with confidence he’s laid the groundwork in the previous six matches that we can truly work with.

We have certainly praised him too, readers will know of the many times we’ve backed him, but we’d tried to call it from both sides as much as we can, and rather than asserting without any doubt he was right or wrong for the gig, simply call what we see as is.

And right now we’re deeply impressed by how it’s panning out.

And make no mistake that they’ll be worried at Parkhead now. Very worried for the first time since 2012.

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