Someone on our social media channels mentioned today how the potential loss of Scott Arfield and the confirmed loss of Ryan Jack are already covered. That Davis and Kamara are already doing a fine job, and we still need Bongani Zungu to step up.
However, something deliberate about this strategy on Stevie G’s part suggests the way this squad and this season is panning out is quite systematic and precisely how the management team configured it.
Go back to September. Rangers had already signed their entire summer portfolio. Only Bongani Zungu still had to arrive.
Now look at the starting team for an average September SPL match:
McGregor, McLaughlin, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Davis, Jack, Kamara, Morelos, Defoe, Kent, Barker, and Hagi.
What do we notice here?
Barely a single new signing in there. Despite all the new blood coming in, only Kemar Roofe was getting some game time and by no means every match. Leon Balogun had fallen injured, but he and Jon McLaughlin were the only two getting a few matches.
Roofe, Itten and Bassey were hardly being used, McLaughlin and McGregor were rotating and Balogun despite a promising start was now out of action.
Then we look at October-present. While there was an isolation period, Bongani Zungu has hardly played.
Gerrard does not generally give new signings starting spots unless they’re experienced, reliable, and someone else isn’t available (McGregor was banned at the start of the season of course).
Why? Because they have to earn this. And doing so can take a lot of time.
When you join Rangers, unless you’re Ronaldo you’re not going to just waltz into the first team. Look at Zungu – South African international and plenty of Ligue One experience and yet he’s still to impact.
It makes players hungry.
Gerrard is deliberately starving these guys, making them work harder, make them give everything to ensure they will run through walls for this club when they get the chance.
Alfredo Morelos is another pinnacle example. He’s lost his place via bad form and low effort, but when he showed up yesterday there was a lot more energy and endeavour on his part. Gerrard, by dropping him, is making him hungrier. In his case, maybe to get a move, sure, but either way, he’s working harder.
And even when you work harder, you don’t just get the place. You have to keep showing that in training and during cameos.
It just makes every player work like dogs.
Look at Kent – we covered how his form is a little below his best, but he’s never stopped working, moving, dribbling, passing, trying to make things happen. Even though we said Stevie won’t drop him, there’s as much a cause due to his refusal to hide as much as any favouritism on the manager’s part.
Not a single Rangers player could be accused of not working hard.
And that’s because you have to, otherwise you’re out.