Yesterday’s win v Livi was critical mass, truly, but what was even more enlightening about the three points was how easily they came about.
Yes, the match should have been tied up more securely in the second half, but the visitors barely laid a glove on the hosts, albeit more than Liege and Celtic did combined, so there really wasn’t a giant threat.
But what interests us is the fact a significant number of changes were made in this match, and once again the ‘deputies’ were just as adept as the ‘first-picks’.
Jermain Defoe started his first this season and his goal was… in many ways every inch as good as Roofe’s worldie in midweek. The gorgeous controlled volley from a raking 45-yard pass was simply sublime and confirmed while he’s not getting any younger, the former England international is the most clinical finisher in the SPL by a distance.
But of course he wasn’t the only cycling player. Ryan Jack came back in with in-form Glen Kamara given a rest, and while it wasn’t the most testing afternoon for the Scotland international he had the most of the ball in the team, second only to Goldson, and was efficient while getting in some tackles and interceptions.
There was also the returning Joe Aribo who got on the scoresheet early doors with some excellent positional reading. He had one really clunky piece of miscontrol early on but as he regains sharpness he’ll only get even better.
And Ianis Hagi retained his midweek slot too. It’s hard to praise Hagi in the way he deserves – he’s a lockpick with brilliant intelligence and use of the ball, but he’s not terribly strong, quick or indeed even that skilful on the ball. Instead he finds people where others just don’t and his opening assist for Aribo’s goal was absolutely remarkable.
Calvin Bassey started again, and had a great match yet again (albeit his passing average (58%) was horrific!), and many fans are actually starting to slightly prefer him to Borna Barisic. It’s just great to have that argument at all.
And then of course we had Filip Helander slotting back in with a pretty easy time of it.
Rangers dropped Glen Kamara, Alfredo Morelos, Leon Balogun and Barisic to name just four, and were absolutely no weaker or less hungry for it.
This Rangers squad has taken Steven Gerrard three years to build, but finally we look like we have a bench just as strong as whoever starts.
And that’s priceless.