There was no possibility they could come close to replicating a title success snared with 32 wins and six draws from the 38-game programme, which banked them a humungous 102-point haul. Following on from Celtic’s unprecedented unbeaten treble of 2016-17, when they accumulated a Scottish top flight record 106 points, Brendan Rodgers’ side again won the title with ease. But, and not-unrelated to the absence of any credible challenge, they ended that term with 24 fewer points.
However, the Ibrox club’s downturn this season, intensified by regular stumbles across the opening two months of 2022 - the latest coming with Sunday’s home draw against Motherwell wherein they blew a two-goal, half-time lead - has created an uncomfortable parallel for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men. For remarkably, there is precious little difference between the league record of Rangers at the present 28-game mark and that of Celtic at the same juncture a year ago. A time when Neil Lennon’s team were perceived as being a complete and utter catastrophe.
The Ibrox club have dropped 20 points this season; then Celtic had dropped 23 points. The cinch Premiership travails afflicting Rangers since the turn of the year have led to them claiming victories in only three of their past eight games - Celtic’s very return from their first eight top flight encounters of 2021. A sequence responsible for pushing Lennon towards the exit door. Rangers have drawn seven and lost two of their latest 28 league outings. At this stage 12 months ago, Celtic were out of title contention with seven draws and three defeats. Points haemorrhaged on the road by Rangers now and Celtic then amount to 11. The Parkhead side, though, had also coughed up 12 points at home, three more than the Ibrox side have in their own backyard across the current campaign. Indeed, in two measures Lennon’s side were actually better placed than Rangers are at present. They had scored more goals, 63 to 58, and conceded fewer, with 21 to 24.
However, in any league format, teams do not operate in a vacuum. And while van Bronckhorst’s team are copping plenty of flak, they are not being pilloried in the excruciating fashion Celtic were a year ago. There is a straightforward reason behind that: for all their frailties, Rangers are firmly in this title race through being merely three points adrift of their ancient adversaries. This time a year ago, Celtic were trailing by a yawning 18 points, having played a game fewer than the champions-elect. Another strand can be teased from this contrast. For all the hoopla over Ange Postecoglou’s fully remodelled side operating at an entirely different level from the club’s faded force of a year ago, they are only six points to the good on them.