Rangers: The six issues to address - and two huge calls to be made by new boss

New Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes his first training session at Auchenhowie on Tuesday after taking over from Steven Gerrard last week.

The 46-year-old Dutchman met the press for the first time on Monday and has assembled his backroom team of Roy Makaay, Yori Bosschaart and Arno Phillps – with the potential for another one to come in.

However, in the short term, Van Bronckhorst needs to pick Rangers back off the floor following Sunday’s shock 3-1 defeat by Hibs at Hampden, which ended their hopes of winning the Premier Sports Cup and continued their malaise on the domestic trophy front.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Rangers are four points clear at the top of the cinch Premiership, but they face a crucial Europa League match on Thursday against Sparta Prague which will be key to securing European football beyond the winter.

Rangers players show their dejection after conceding against Hibs on Sunday.

We take a look at some of the problems Van Bronckhorst needs to address ahead of the match at Ibrox against the Czechs:

Raise morale

Easier said than done, but Rangers clearly look a team low on confidence. Their players did not show good body language against Hibs and were missing the leadership of their former boss Gerrard, with little direction coming from the sidelines. They have come under fierce criticism for their performance at Hampden and Van Bronckhorst will need to put the metaphorical arm round the shoulder. There is more than sufficient evidence to show that these players are capable of achieving big results for Rangers. Raising their spirits ahead of Sparta Prague’s visit will be key.

Tightening up the team

Rangers are conceding too many goals. It is simple to point the finger at the defence, which clearly isn’t functioning properly, but there are other areas to look at too. The back four is not getting enough protection from Glen Kamara and Steven Davis in front of them, and the front three is not pressing hard enough, allowing teams too much time on the ball in their own half. That is a mentality issue, as much as anything else. The back four needs work, whether it is a change in personnel or some emergency training. Options are thin on the ground, with Filip Helander injured and Jack Simpson not eligible for European football, so Connor Goldson and Leon Balogun are likely to continue in the centre. Calvin Bassey and Nathan Patterson could come in at full-backs given that Borna Barisic and captain James Tavernier are not playing particularly well, but it would be a massive statement so early into his tenure were Van Bronckhorst to drop his skipper.

Goalkeeper – do you stick with Allan McGregor?

While Allan McGregor was outstanding for Rangers last season, his aura of invincibility has certainly diminished this term. The 41-year-old is not in the best of form, not making the saves he usually does. Breathing down his neck is Jon McLaughlin, who rarely lets Rangers down when called upon. Gerrard was partial to rotation with his goalkeepers – to keep McGregor sharp, if nothing else – but Van Bronckhorst may want a more settled situation and might plump for the current Scotland back-up.

Address Connor Goldson comments

Rangers defender Goldson was not shy in the wake of the Hibs defeat in calling out players who were lacking hunger. The interview smacked of a man not happy with the levels of his team-mates. If there are any schisms in the dressing-room, Van Bronckhorst needs to sort them out. His meeting with Tavernier on Monday will have shed light on the inner machinations of the group.

Misfiring Alfredo Morelos

Once again, main striker Alfredo Morelos was a let-down for Rangers at Hampden. The Colombian fluffed the one presentable chance that came his way and looks sluggish and at times disinterested. This is not a new problem when it comes to Morelos – he can be a moody, sulky striker – but Rangers need him to be at peak condition right now. Some of his best moments have come on the European stage, but there will be a temptation from those at Ibrox to give Kemar Roofe the nod as the No.9, or indeed press Fashion Sakala into action. The Zambian is in a rich vein of goalscoring form and his pace and movement could expose Sparta Prague’s defence.

Get the real Ryan Kent back

On his day, Ryan Kent is the most exciting player on Rangers’ books. The winger has that ability to deliver off either foot and can go wide or cut inside. He did, however, resemble a lost boy against Hibs. It is no secret of his closeness with Gerrard, who firstly managed to persuade him to shun a move to Club Brugge in Belgium in favour of a permanent move to Rangers in September 2019 and then was able to fend off sustained interest from Leeds United. Without Gerrard there, though, and in a team flattering to deceive, Kent looks to have lost his focus. Van Bronckhorst will need to use all of his managerial nous to get the Oldham-born player back on the level. He is Rangers’ most explosive attacker, and even if there are ambitions to move on, Rangers have so many big matches coming up. To keep their noses ahead of Celtic and maintain an interest in the Europa League, Kent will have a huge part to play. He has more to offer than Scott Wright, and perhaps even Ianis Hagi.

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.