Rangers aftermath: Lack of leadership becoming apparent - and a big deadline-day mistake

Introspection will be the order of the day at Ibrox and Auchenhowie as the aftermath from Old Firm defeat continues, and Rangers’ recovery begins.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst pulled few punches when deliberating on defeat post-match with Sky Sports, but there are factors the Dutchman needs to address after his maiden visit to Parkhead as manager went the way of his first east end trip as a player in 1998.

Rangers won the league that year, which the Dutchman noted and, only a point off the leaders they are far from out of the title picture and written off at peril. But the manner of the defeat, first-half in particular, should be addressed.

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Character control

Rangers' Connor Goldson during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park, on February 02, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Without any influence or response, Rangers’ initial shock from Celtic’s relentless early blast lingered and they remained dazed by those exhaustive, and decisive, 45 minutes.

For some it is not in their nature, but those who would expect to stand up and take control at times of adversity or hostility – big characters like Allan McGregor, or on-field leaders like Connor Goldson and James Tavernier – simply didn’t, or couldn’t.

It’s more than just a shout, an encouragement or rollicking too. It’s confidence to take the ball from, or give the ball to, a team-mate at the right time – give them a break, or give them confidence.

It didn’t help that one of those go-to guys was having a particularly troublesome night with Jota on Celtic’s left, and Scott Arfield, a big-game player, was typically full of endeavour yet conversely off-colour.

Rangers' Scott Arfield (L) and James Tavernier exchange words after going 2-0 down . (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Not until Ryan Jack entered play did Rangers have someone willing to take possession for any length of time, make a pass, whether productive or confidence-building, and begin to exert some element of control. By then it was too late.

It suddenly exposed the void which had quietly opened in Rangers’ midfield since both he and Steven Davis were sidelined. While there are players capable of playing their holding midfield position – a hostile, partisan Parkhead atmosphere highlighted there are few who can reprise their calming, conducting role.

Defence

Calvin Bassey’s cover for Filip Helander at centre-half was another covering role continued but, while settled in selection, Rangers’ defence looked anything but – conceding three domestic goals in consecutive games for the first time since 1986.

Rangers defender Borna Barisic during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park, on February 02, 2022. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

It begs the question, in hindsight of course, whether accelerating the arrival of John Souttar – a natural centre-half – and meeting Hearts’ demands would have helped? Perhaps not in the first instance of Celtic’s intensive onslaught, but the option of shifting Bassey into his more comfortable left-back role for the out-of-form Barisic looks so desirable in retrospect, and improved the second half.

In their favour

Few positives are there to be taken – but lessons will be learned.

Amad has now been exposed to a hostile atmosphere, Jack took great strides in his recovery and watching on from the stands Aaron Ramsey will have realised a quick, sharp and telling impact is required of him.

Rangers' Connor Goldson (L) at full time during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park, on February 02, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Van Bronckhorst will have learned about his teams’ character, collectively and individually, how they carry out his instructions – and if they were right or not.

Now, favourably, he has three of his next four league games at Ibrox to address the failure across the city and a seven-point swing across the last fortnight.

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