The Scottish league is coming to its conclusion with yet another campaign dominated by Celtic and Brendan Rodgers, who are on course to repeat last years heroics with yet another treble.
However, there still appears to be a lot of excitement for their biggest rivals Rangers, who will be looking ahead already next season in order to close the huge gap that has opened between the two Glasgow clubs.
The appointment of Rodgers’ former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard just days ago has already cast a light on what has been a truly underwhelming season for the Gers.
Despite financial restraints at the club, the appointment of Reds legend Gerrard will mean a big recruitment plan in place for the summer.
Gerrard will begin work as Rangers manager in the summer, with Jimmy Nicholl and Jonatan Johansson taking over as a caretaker management duo for the remaining two games this season.
The profile of the former England captain will undoubtedly attract a number of top players to the Ibrox. but what three players should the new Rangers boss consider to close the gap between his new rivals?
The Belgian goalkeeper, who had been Liverpool’s number one for the past five seasons, has fallen down the pecking order at Anfield and a new club destination could be the perfect opportunity to revitalise his fading career.
Mignolet, who played alongside Gerrard for two years after joining the club from Sunderland in 2013, congratulated Gerrard on Twitter after his appointment and could be the perfect signing for Rangers.
With vast experience across the Premier League for many years and his Liverpool career looking more jaded, due to the form of Loris Karius, Mignolet needs picking back up and his former captain may just be the man to do it.
A player Gerrard will know all but too well, Harry Wilson has been one of the brightest prospects in the Liverpool academy for many years and his recent form in the Championship is highlighting why there is such a buzz for this talented youngster.
Since departing for a temporary move to Hull in the January window, the 21-year-old has been in fine form, netting seven goals in 13 appearances to help Nigel Adkins’ side avoid any fears of relegation before the final day.
The youngster also made his international debut in his first start for Wales under new boss Ryan Giggs and netted a maiden goal for his country in China.
Despite an injury-hit start to 2017-18, which meant missing the whole of the pre-season, Wilson quickly returned to action with the Under-23s and was in fine form firing a hat-trick against Spurs at Anfield back in September.
After Wilson’s final game for Hull took place yesterday in a 1-1 draw with Brentford, it means the Liverpool loanee will return to his parent club as he prepares for pre-season.
Despite the winger’s talents, it seems impossible to think that Wilson could break into Liverpool’s irreplaceable ‘fab three’ which means another loan move would be the best option for his development.
Gerrard, therefore, would be the perfect man to coach the 21-year-old.
After all, he has already managed him in the Champions League for Liverpool under-19’s this season and will know full well just what the young forward is capable of.
Boyhood Gers fan James McArthur was one of the many players to highlight his excitement of Gerrard being appointed as manager of Rangers.
The current Crystal Palace midfielder has been a fundamental player for the Eagles over the last few seasons and, despite having two years left on his Palace contract, Gerrard just could be the man to lure him away from Selhurst Park.
The biggest difficulty for Rangers is that the 30-year-old will not be a free agent this summer, and it seems unlikely that the club could afford a transfer fee for a player proven in the top flight of English football and with another two years on his current contract.
A deal for McArthur would be difficult for the Gers, despite his boyhood allegiance to the Scottish side.
However, the appointment of Gerrard showed the ambition the club had been lacking for many years and the Englishman could be the manager who is finally given the licence to break the back and bring in the players to change the fortune of the football club.
Three things learnt from Rangers’ qualification over Maribor: Morelos hasn’t learned
Rangers only needed a 0-0 draw to see out a 3-1 first leg win and secure qualification for the Europa League’s final qualifying round by beating Maribor in Slovenia.
A 91st minute penalty was the closest either team came to breaking the deadlock on the night with the hosts proving to be the more dominant of the two teams, but they failed to turn their chances and possession into goals.
Here’s what can be learned from the game…
McGregor is the quality of goalkeeper Rangers need
Having made six saves, including an injury time penalty from Marcos Tavares, Alan McGregor has continued to show that he is the kind of goalkeeper that the team need having failed to ever really replace him.
Now being asked to perform at a higher level than ever before to push the team into European football, the 36-year-old is showing that he has what it takes after having been with Hull in the second tier.
Gerrard is going for the Mourinho style of media management
Steven Gerrard remains unbeaten in his role as a manager at senior level, yet many are still beginning to learn what to expect from the former Liverpool captain. Perhaps surprisingly, his attitude when addressing the press has drawn comparisons to Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, who he has never hidden his admiration for.
“They had confidence, they had ego, and they are devastated. They had no respect for us, but my players have proved over two legs we are better than Maribor, and that gives me great confidence going forward.”
The former England man’s ‘us against the world’ attitude was previously evident following claims of refereeing conspiracies against Aberdeen. He’s made it clear that he is no novice learning his trade, but is willing to come out fighting.
Morelos hasn’t learned
Despite having been sent off against Aberdeen, only for the decision to later be overturned, for lashing out, Alfredo Morelos was at it again against Maribor. His temperament got the better of him and, in a heated affair, he was involved in numerous altercations.
Few doubt his potential and his ability, but concerns over his discipline remain. With Bordeaux having made a £3.75 million bid, which was instantly rejected according to BBC Sport, Rangers may well be tempted to cash in if he can’t prove that he can behave himself and avoid referees having to take action.
Rangers fans will be pleased Dynamo Kiev deal collapsed for Borna Barisic last summer
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard brought Borna Barisic to Ibrox this summer and he’s already impressed in Glasgow.
It is fair to say that Rangers have been impressed with the early signs from Croatian newbie Borna Barisic. The £2.2 million signing from Osijek impressed in the 2-0 win over St Mirren at the weekend, playing 62 minutes on his debut.
Rangers fans know what the left-back is capable of. They faced him in the Europa League qualifiers earlier this season. The Croatian international looks like being a future star for Rangers and the Ibrox faithful will hope he continues to improve under Steven Gerrard.
They will also be thankful that a transfer deal that looked all set and done for last summer never went through.
“I had agreed everything with Dynamo Kiev and then I do not know what happened…
“In the end Kiev went to (Josip) Pivaric, a great guy, who is certainly not guilty, but I had missed the transfer, everything was clear, someone had undermined it.”
The new Glasgow hero nearly headed to Kiev in the summer of 2017. As reported by Sportske Jutarnji, the player had agreed to join Dynamo Kiev last August.
A deal looked as good as done for the player. However, at the last minute, it fell apart. Instead, Kiev signed his Croatian compatriot Josip Pivaric.
Rangers fans will no doubt be pleased this deal fell apart. As a result, they have a top left-back at Ibrox who could go on to be a real star for Gerrard’s team.
Whoever managed to break up the Barisic to Kiev deal, deserves a big thank you from the Ibrox faithful.
Three things Rangers fans learnt after victory over St. Mirren: Discipline concerns
Steven Gerrard picked up his first league win as Rangers boss as the team in blue overcame newly promoted St. Mirren. Alfredo Morelos and Conor Goldson raced the team into an early lead with a promising start.
Then, a sending off for a rash challenge from Ross McCrorie gave the visitors hope though it was not enough for them to work their way back into the game as they were forced to settle for defeat.
Here’s what we can take from the game:
Discipline is a concern
Two SPL games and two red cards is not the start that Steven Gerrard would have wanted. A hot head in his younger days as a player, he knows all about that aspect of the game but will be keen to stamp it out from his Rangers side as quickly as possible.
“I thought the officials were really, really good today. They got the decision spot-on and we’ve got no complaints. I’ve spoken to the team and praised them for the result. But I’ve also spoken about discipline and composure out there. It’s difficult enough with 11 men. We’re picking up too many red and yellow cards for my liking. But we’ll learn, grow and keep going.”
Yet again the dismissal came in the first half, though fortunately for Ross McCrorie his team had already built up a two goal lead. Having just returned to the team, he could live to regret making such a rash mistake.
Overturning Alfredo Morelos’ ban was crucial
He could have been watching from the stands but instead, just inside the quarter of an hour mark, his high press and composed finish showed just why Rangers need him fit and firing if they are to push Celtic for the title this season.
Whereas last week showed the worst of his game, Morelos looked more at home at Ibrox and the pent up frustration on show last weekend was no longer visible. Now, he has to cut it out of his game completely.
Gerrard’s project remains a work in progress
It can be hard to judge a team based on performances with ten men, particularly two weeks in a row, but there are signs of progress already. There can be no denying that Rangers are not yet the finished package but it is beginning to come together for Gerrard.
Conor Goldson can be pleased with his goal and the side included several other new arrivals this summer including the likes of Borna Barisic, Jon Flanagan, Allan McGregor and young loanees Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria. It will take them some time to adapt.
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