Steven Gerrard was unusually reticent when asked the other day whether he now has a first choice starting eleven.
The Rangers manager will see his side host Hearts today before a trip to Aberdeen on Wednesday. And, inevitably, his team selections will be pored over for possible pointers to the line-up Gerrard will field against Celtic in next Sunday’s League Cup final.
It was put to the Ibrox manager that two or three players could use the next two games to “grab spots” in the team for the Hampden decider.
“I don’t think there’s three,” Gerrard said with a knowing smile. “At times, I’ve thought I knew my best eleven. But things change in football, sometimes people grasp an opportunity. Players surprise you and then others don’t take their chance by not doing themselves justice. So there’s a bit of that going on in one or two situations within the team. What I would say is a lot of players are very consistent at the moment which means I’m finding it hard to get certain people in. So work that out.
“You’ve always got places to lose at a club the size of Rangers. The players have to grab a shirt. If you’re complacent at Rangers, there will always be someone ready to step in. I’m not going to just forget someone off the back of a bad performance, a mistake or a little barren spell. Everyone is human. I have to remember what people have given me over the course of 18 months. But the eleven is certainly not set for between now and the end of the season.”
At one stage last season it would have seemed inconceivable that a place would not be found for Scott Arfield in the Rangers starting line-up. He is now struggling to make an impact although the midfielder’s issues haven’t entirely been in his professional domain.
“In terms of form, Scott will be the first to admit that he’s maybe not hit the heights of last season,” said Gerrard. “But he set such high standards last year, certainly towards the end of the campaign when he was on fire. He was in the zone. Scott is one that we trust. We’ll stay with him and keep believing that he’ll get back to his best form.
“He’s had a situation off the field rumbling on, that he’s had for a few weeks and is his private business. That’s up to him whether he divulges that or not. He’s had a tough few weeks. But he’s one that’s still very much part of our plans and I really appreciate what he’s given us since he came through the door, on and off the pitch. We won’t turn him away, for sure.
“Fans don’t see that kind of thing and I don’t want to divulge too much of his private business. But it’s my responsibility to protect Scott. That’s what I try to do when sometimes a player has a situation where they’re not themselves. But what I’ll say about Scott Arfield is that he’s always there for you. Maybe other people might have stayed away from the place so fair play to him, he’s some man.”