The squad numbers are just about right for Mark Warburton. The options for each position are as the Rangers manager sought. Even the age profile of a 24-man pool will be to his satisfaction if he can add a fourth centre-back – in the form of Philippe Senderos, most probably – days after adding a fourth striker courtesy of a £1.7m deal being agreed with Preston for Joe Garner.
Yet, with all these pieces, Warburton has a jigsaw puzzle to produce a team that fits and clicks together. So far, he admits, he hasn’t solved that .
A win tomorrow night away to Kilmarnock appears very much within Rangers’ capabilities. If achieved it would ensure Warburton’s men have 10 points from four games.
Moreover, with the international break to follow, they would be guaranteed to retain their place at the top of the Premiership pile when they head to Celtic Park on 10 September for the feverishly-awaited first league derby in more than four years.
The Englishman, as a performance coach, knows that the stodginess of the displays in drawing with Hamilton Accies, digging out a win in Dundee and then snatching a victory in added-time against Motherwell at the weekend isn’t simply digestible because of the outcomes.
“We haven’t found our best team yet in terms of combinations,” he said. “We know how good the players can be, but we are still gelling in players, gelling in formations. We are not there yet.
“But we are pleased with the first half of Dundee, pleased with the second half of Motherwell. So we are starting to get there, things are starting to fall into place. But we need one or two tweaks. It might well be to change one we need to change three, if that makes sense, in terms of the formation.
“It is about finding how best to maximise what we have. If we get the last one done we will be comfortable with the squad, with the ability, with the balance. It is about making sure we get the right selections.”
That process isn’t taking longer than Warburton anticipated? “Not at all. It is us tweaking it with the different players we have bought. You can try and squeeze a squad into a chosen formation or you can fit the formation into the squad that you have. It is just making sure that we tweak it as we see appropriate. We have got some good options now we are delighted with.
“Last year we started off with Andy Halliday as our only holding midfielder. Dom Ball came later. When we had injuries and Dom played at centre half we had no other cover. Now we have Joey [Barton], we have Jordan [Rossiter], we have Andy, we have Matt Crooks when he comes back. We have got nice selection problems. They are problems. It is alright saying there will be people disappointed. But you would rather have them than not have them.”
Warburton would rather have Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers’ potential problem of a packed calendar to Christmas that follows from Champions League qualification – which the Rangers manager welcomed as “good for Scottish football”.
He refuses to obsess about the impending trip to Parkhead that will bring him his first league encounter with Celtic. They are a team he has watched plenty and would be willing to “dip in” to see first hand, though TV provides in-depth analysis. He understands the bigger picture after spending last summer selling Rangers to players with the promise they could be playing Champions League football in three years.
“We have to win the league; that’s what we have to do, to get there. ‘Are we ready to win the title?’ is the obvious question.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re more than highly competitive.”