Steven Gerrard accepted his share of responsibility for Rangers’ first defeat of the season and says his players also deserve any criticism of their performance against Celtic at Ibrox.
Rangers manager Gerrard was left dismayed by the level of his team’s display in the first Old Firm showdown of the season as reigning champions Celtic opened a three-point gap between the teams at the top of the Premiership table with their 2-0 win.
“I would say it was a poor performance all round,” said Gerrard, pictured. “I’m part of that. We will all analyse ourselves, we will take a bit of criticism for it, which is okay, we are man enough to accept it.
“When we analyse where we are in the big picture, we are four points better off than we were at this stage in the league last year, we have qualified for Europe, we are still in the League Cup. There were a lot of positives up until a ball was kicked today. We had a lot of praise and a lot of credit.“So now we are going to have to take a bit of criticism and rightly so because our performance across the board wasn’t good enough to win an Old Firm game or against any good team that comes onto this pitch. In derby games it is about one v ones more often than not and we didn’t win enough of those today. I expected a lot more. To win against any good team, especially in the Old Firm, you’ve got to have the majority of players at it. Unfortunately, across the board, we weren’t good enough. There was really only Jon Flanagan who can be proud of his performance. We can’t expect to beat a good team or win an Old Firm match if the majority of players are off it.”
Gerrard opted for a 4-3-3 system lacking in natural width, while his decision to start Jermain Defoe in attack ahead of Alfredo Morelos raised some eyebrows.
“You could say we were narrow, I’ll accept that,” added Gerrard. “But that game plan has worked before against Celtic. We were narrow against them twice here last season and won both games.
“I went with freshness, I went with Jermain Defoe. I picked the same team, apart from Joe Aribo, that did the job so effectively when we beat Celtic here in May. I understand and get it and accept it if people want to point fingers my way. But I picked the team I thought could get a stranglehold on the game. I picked good players. The system has worked before. I expected more from my players but it didn’t come.
“The disappointing thing is that I don’t think we’ve been played off the park. Celtic deserve credit for the win, of course they do, they got what they deserved. But I don’t think we were outplayed or were passed off the pitch. We’ve gifted them a goal and then we’ve chased it and then you are open to the second one. They deserved the win, of course they do, their game plan has worked and ours hasn’t, but a game plan will never work at Ibrox if you have so many of your trusted players who are not at it.”
Gerrard had no complaints about the late dismissal of Jordan Jones for a challenge on Moritz Bauer, Rangers’ first red card of the season.
“He totally deserved it,” said Gerrard. “It has come from frustration but if you are Jordan Jones and you want fans on your side, you create and score goals. You don’t kick people when the ball is gone and get a silly red card and get yourself injured. I can’t defend Jordan on that. It is the one moment where we have lost control since coming back this season.”