Rangers are again licking their wounds after a demoralising derby defeat to Celtic. The Hoops visited Ibrox last weekend and delivered another tough lesson to Pedro Caixinha and his team, winning 2-0 and dominating the 90 minutes. After a summer of heavy transfer activity, it was the first true test of the progress the club have made since last season’s failures and after faltering again, the question that must be asked is where do they go from here?
With a tough schedule of fixtures ahead, including a massive League Cup semi-final at Hampden against Motherwell, the pressure won’t be alleviated on the Light Blues boss anytime soon and judgements are now being made about the Portuguese after every match, week after week, which is never an ideal situation.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s defeat, some Rangers personnel, like James Tavernier, still insisted that they can win the Scottish Premiership title. This is a natural ambition, but it’s a mindset that’s putting undue pressure on both the management team and the players and it’s time to give up that chase and focus on more realistic ambitions, which are far from unachievable.
It may be a harsh truth but the fact is Celtic will likely win the Scottish Premiership again this season. The depth they have in their squad and the consistency they’ve shown under Brendan Rodgers make them an unstoppable force across an entire season.
Pedro Caixinha inherited a squad that had just been promoted to the Scottish top-flight and it’s simply too much to ask to expect them to be challenging for the title, against a side that have been champions for years now, just one season later.
Rangers, and their supporters, need to take a more long-term view of the rebuilding that must occur at Ibrox, taking joy in small, meaningful steps that allow them to make forward progress towards the summit of Scottish football.
It’s easy for fans to feel like defeats against Celtic are a disaster, especially when the fixtures are so hyped by the media, but that team are not who the Light Blues should be measuring themselves against. Not yet anyway.
It’s important that Caixinha is given time to try and stitch together a team that can find consistency in the Scottish Premiership. That’s not a suggestion that fans should blindly follow the Portuguese without criticism, but we’re only seven games deep into the league season and it’s far too early to entertain talk of him leaving.
Perhaps most importantly, the Rangers hierarchy have invested heavily into the manger’s own players and footballing philosophy and ending that early without seeing it through will only add to the problems at Ibrox, rather than resolve them. Pressure is natural at a club like Rangers, but Caixinha isn’t a lost cause quite yet.
The aims for this season and the path ahead is clear. Finish in second place as close to Celtic as possible, ahead of Aberdeen, reach finals of the domestic cup competitions and at least be competitive when challenging for the silverware. That would represent significant progress at Ibrox this season, even if the Hoops inevitable race towards another title win.
On their day, Rangers can still compete with Celtic. It may require Brendan Rodgers side to be off their game and for Rangers to play out of their skin, but in one off matches at Hampden, anything can happen.
Only at the season’s end can you judge what the Rangers manager has managed to do. There’s no denying Saturday’s defeat will have stung supporters, players and Caixinha himself, but all it was, was a reminder that Rangers have to focus on their own goals this season, rather than the goals of their city rivals.