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Review of the Season so far:

 

We’re 4 games past the first round of fixtures in the SPL this season so taking time to take stock of how the team is progressing this season is probably overdue. Apologies for the delay (reviewing the team’s progress should happen at more regular intervals in the coming season(s)).

 

Last season: The launch pad for success?

The Rangers squad of the 07/08 season were transformed from a team that struggled into second place the year before, to almost becoming the most successful Rangers squad in the club’s history. Despite the frustration at the manner of some of the European performances; we all enjoyed the results that Walter’s winning formula achieved. The highlight of the season quite possibly being Nacho slotting home the winning penalty in a European semi-final, culminating with the blue sea descending on Manchester.

 

The exertions of the exceptional European run, many of the squad played in excess of 60 games, ultimately proved our downfall in the league, but having come so close to an unprecedented quadruple, Smith’s charges emerged with a cup double to show for their efforts. Now is not the time to dwell on what went “wrong” last season, but merely to examine how we have built upon the successes of last year in the present campaign.

 

Summer transfer activity and the early season

After the wave of optimism for the coming season, generated by last year’s results, the Rangers faithful were brought crashing back down to earth. The departure of Cuellar, perhaps in some ways stimulated by a catastrophic elimination from Europe at the first hurdle, at the hands of relative minnows from Lithuania, undid a lot of the good work of Smith’s first full season back in charge.

 

The back 5 that were largely impregnable to some of Europe’s best teams; McGregor, Broadfoot, Weir, Cuellar and Papac had lost arguably the most important component. Many worried about Weir’s lack of pace, but the exceptional debut season form of the Spaniard more than compensated for this. Of course Alexander contributed almost equally as capably as McGregor.

 

Despite the failure in Europe and the loss of a potential Ã?£10million, the departure of last season’s most impressive performer demanded Murray coughed up some funds to Smith. The Ã?£7.8 million sale of Cuellar helped off-set the purchases of Bougherra, Davis, Mendes, Miller, Velicka, Edu and Lafferty.

 

In some ways the Cuellar sale was reminiscent of the Boumsong transfer. Initially fears at selling our most dependable performer gave way to praise for strengthening the team as a whole as Ferguson, Kyrgiakos and Buffel combined to bring the title back to Ibrox under McLeish in 2005. Whether the more recent transfer dealings prove as prophetic is yet to be seen. With no European football to concern us this season, Bougherra appears a more than able replacement and the sale of Cuellar also allowed us to add creativity to a workmanlike midfield in the shape of Mendes and Davis.

 

Unfortunately, Edu, Velicka and Lafferty have yet to show their true worth. Signed for a combined sum of approximately Ã?£7million the judgement of Smith in making these signings must be questioned. Lafferty, our most expensive signing at Ã?£3-4million, may yet prove his worth. It is this Bears opinion that as a young international player he was signed with the intention of turning a profit in the future. Bring him to one of Britain’s biggest clubs, get him in the shop window and hopefully showcase his talents in Europe with a view to attracting a Premiership suitor in a few years time. If it works out it will be a clever piece of business by the club.

 

However, with the short term being as important as the long term in the intense rivalry of the West of Scotland, was it wise for the Chairman and Manager to sanction the spending of such a large portion of our transfer budget on a player who may not be able to make an immediate impact on the first team squad.

 

Kenny Miller

In probably the most contentious signing since Souness brought Mo-Jo to the club, Walter Smith resigned Kenny Miller from Derby only a year after the Scotland striker had left our rivals from the East of the city.

 

Many fans were against the signing of the less than prolific hitman. Whilst I and many others can honestly say that we were less than enthused with the signing due to his paltry goal return throughout his career, many merely opposed the signing as he had played for our oldest rivals.

 

Early signs suggest that Smith was right in luring Miller back across the divide. Miller has struck up a prolific partnership with the much maligned Kris Boyd. Whilst Boyd predictably contributes the lion’s share of the goals, Miller has chipped in with a few vital strikes whilst his willing running has provided a number of opportunities for his team mates.

 

Adding style to substance

As alluded to earlier on, whilst the results achieved by Smith and co last season were welcomed, the performances were not often pleasing on the eye. With an excellent run to the UEFA cup final, the ends justified the means. However, the manager recognised, and the fans demanded, that they style of football employed by the team improved for the present season.

 

Whilst the sale of Cuellar was a hammer blow, it helped fund the purchases of Mendes and Davis, the former a crucial signing with the captain due to miss the 4 months of the start of the season. With the combative Thomson complimenting Mendes’ technical skills in the middle, and Davis looking more assured in a slightly unnatural wide right position than he did towards the end of last season, the quality of football played by Rangers improved beyond all recognition. Highlights being a Parkhead pummelling and a 3-0 victory at Easter Road.

 

It cannot be argued that in this respect Walter fulfilled his obligation to the fans. However, with the serious injury suffered by Kevin Thomson, time is required for a new central midfield partnership to develop between the club captain and Pedro Mendes. Mendes showed an apparent dip in form just prior to the captain’s return that is often natural in beginning life at a new club, however a swift return to form is needed.

 

It may also be argued that this new found flowing football may in some ways lead to our greater vulnerability that was not apparent last season. In going from a team that defends resolutely from 1-11, that now looks to attack and stretch the opposition it is only natural we will offer up more opportunities to the opposition.

 

Character and leading from the front

Last season Smith managed to put us in the box position for the League title. Even when fixture congestion caught up with us and we had several games postponed, winning our remaining games would have seen us reclaim the SPL crown. Unfortunately circumstances conspired to make that impossible.

 

This season we do not have fixture congestion and an unhelpful SFA to blame. Smith took his squad to Parkhead for the opening Old Firm fixture of the season as early as September and inevitably as former players do when returning to a previous club, a 2-goal salvo from Miller along with an inspired Daniel Cousin, saw Rangers crush our only credible title rivals 4-2 and establish our early title credentials.

 

Unfortunately, as has been the case with many Rangers squads since the early years of Alex McLeish’s reign, the players appear to lack the character for a sustained title fight and dropped points at St. Mirren, home to Dundee Utd and at Fir Park have left us hanging on to Celtic’s coat tails.

 

It is up to the current management team of Smith, McCoist and McDowall to instil the belief and fighting qualities in this squad to put pressure on Strachan’s Celtic and emerge victorious and should we regain top spot, we need to continue to churn out the results that ensure we stay where we belong.

 

What can we expect for the remainder of the season?

Despite recent disappointing results, with dropped points against Dundee Utd and then Motherwell, we are still in touch with Celtic, just four points off the pace. With Walter’s record in Old Firm matches, and the next one being at Ibrox, we can reasonably expect to cut this gap if we can avoid dropping silly points elsewhere.

 

The loss of Kevin Thomson is a huge disappointment but that has been offset by the return of Ferguson. Whilst the midfield may now have arguably lost a bit of steel, we should gain a bit of creativity and vision that the attacking players can take advantage of.

 

Other injured players such as Miller, Papac and Bougherra are also returning heading into the hectic month of December. With an almost fully fit squad and our ability to deal comfortably with any team in the league on our day, we have every reason for optimism. We have a semi-final in the Co-op cup to look forward to and the SFA cup beginning in the New Year. If we can avoid the complacency and lack of form that has seen us drop points in a few of the matches in the first round of fixtures we have every reason to anticipate a successful season. Celtic, though, will not hand over the league trophy, it is ours for the taking if we want it badly enough.

 

Main site link: http://www.gersnetonline.net/newsite/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=711&Itemid=1

Edited by Super_Ally
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Link to main site version - http://www.newsnow.co.uk/A/313709979?-11344

 

Enjoyed reading that mate...

 

Generally it's very easy for all of us to be negative about this season so far. The Kaunas capitulation, the inconsistency, the poor league results and the injury to Thomson.

 

However, there have been good signs. A better quality of football, the partnership up front, investment into the team and the superb win over Celtic.

 

The 4 point gap is the main thing to take though. It's not the biggest lead in the world but it will prove difficult to haul in with Celtic now out of Europe as well. It will take hard work, passion, commitment and belief.

 

Like most fans, I doubt we have that, but I'll try my damnedest at games to support them towards another title.

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I just typed out a huge reply to this post and the puter had logged me out of Gersent. Ragin! :ffs:

 

I can't be bothered writing it all out again.

 

In short, I feel like we've made an improvement on last season, even with our early exit from europe. :brick:

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