After a blistering start to the season under new boss Mark Warburton, Rangers have seen results take a little dip in recent weeks. Earlier this season, the talk before games was how many the team would rack up in an easy win; bookmakers must have made a fortune of people backing seven, eight and nine-goal victories.
The recent draw at Livingston’s fantastically-named Tony Macaroni Arena wasn’t as much down to the hosts performing valiantly and earning a point as it was Rangers being wasteful in possession. The visitors finished the game having had 70% of the ball, eight corners to Livi’s two, and ten shots at goal.
In other games where Rangers haven’t been at their best, they still tend to dominate possession and this is where they need to improve to try get back to the form of the early weeks of the season. 60% and 11 shots in a 2-1 defeat away to Hibs is an example.
The players seem unwilling to shoot at times and want to walk the ball into the goal. That’s fine when you’re two or three goals up, but sometimes there needs to be a slightly more direct approach to goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Warburton’s side are in a strong position to earn promotion back to the Premiership, but Hibs have almost closed the gap. The Ibrox clash between the two sides on December 28 will certainly be crucial in the title race.
The John Eustace saga has finally ended with the player not signing for the club due to personal circumstances. Eustace would have been a good addition to the squad and hopefully there’s someone else lined up in his place.
As the transfer window approaches, rumours will soon start as to who will be heading to Ibrox in January. A centre-forward and central midfielder would be my choice. Someone to provide competition to, or play alongside, Martyn Waghorn, and a defensive-minded midfielder to anchor the midfield. Andy Halliday has played well in that role for much of the season so far, however I feel he is better utilised in a more attacking role, similar to Jason Holt.
Speaking of Holt, the former Hearts and Sheffield United man has been a fantastic signing for the club for a bargain £65,000. His versatility is a big part of what has made him a vital player under Warburton’s leadership, and his ability to dictate the pace of play should see him become a key part of the Rangers midfield, and maybe go on to write his name into club folklore.
Finally, Gedion Zelalem has come in for some criticism from some fans over his recent performances. I’ve even read a few comments online calling for the club not to renew the young American’s loan deal when it expires in January. While I agree that he hasn’t been at his best of late, he is a fantastic talent and the club should definitely look to keep him beyond the turn of the year.
When he hits his peak as a player I have no doubts that he’ll be a superstar, and even though he won’t hit that peak while in Scotland, he is head and shoulders above many players in the Scottish Championship. Giving the player game time and aiding his development will also be helpful in cultivating a good relationship with Arsenal; John Hughes did something similar when he was Falkirk boss and still gets kids on loan from the Gunners now.
Like many top English clubs, Arsenal loan out a large number of players to a variety of clubs competing at massively different levels of the game. In a few years, when Rangers should hopefully be competing in Europe again, this could help us attract a higher standard of player.
Zelalem is still very young too. At 18, he’s very much still finding his way in the game and is only now getting his first taste of regular, competitive football. He’s far from the polished article, but there is a huge amount of potential there. The way he can make a yard of space looks absolutely effortless. I’ve lost count of the number of times already I’ve watched him just drop a shoulder and find himself in acres of space. What he does next can sometimes be questionable, but he’s still learning.
Who knows, a good run in the Scottish Cup this season (and a place in the Europa League next) and Arsenal might just want him to continue his development with north of the border.