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Rangers stood still after 55 and transfer failures could cost champions in Premiership title race

IF you stand still, you risk going backwards. Rangers have now been overtaken in the title race and face the prospect of being left behind for years to come if they do not hit top gear soon.

The aftermath of an Old Firm defeat is the perfect time for knee-jerk analysis and over-reactions but the situation that Rangers find themselves in right now has been much longer in the making than a humbling 90 minutes at Parkhead.

The winning of title 55 last season brought an end to one chapter in Rangers’ history. It was supposed to be a triumph from which future glories would be built.

One league flag does not grant legendary status at Ibrox. That message seems to have been lost in the boardroom and the dressing room, though, and Rangers now run the risk of blowing their chance of sustained success.

Petty, unbecoming squabbles with the SPFL, the Press and even their own supporters may have appeased sections of the Laptop Loyal online but they feed into the feeling that Rangers have bought into their own hype and hubris.

On the park, the levels that allowed Steven Gerrard’s side to become invincible champions last term have never been hit this season. Off it, the moves to strengthen, to build and go bigger and better, that needed to be made have not been implemented.

The squad that Gerrard assembled over his first years at Ibrox would finally achieve its goal last season, but it has not been improved on since the summer of 2021 and Rangers are discovering the perils of failing to freshen and enhance the group.

Given their dominance last term, Rangers had an opportunity to put daylight between themselves and Celtic whilst their Old Firm rivals recovered and regrouped from a disastrous campaign that saw the end of their ten-in-a-row dreams and the departures of Neil Lennon and Peter Lawwell.

For the first time in a long time, it was Rangers who were in a position of strength and stability. Just a few months on, they have handed over the momentum in the title race and are chasing Ange Postecoglou’s rebuilt Celtic side.

Their recruitment strategy is at the heart of their issues right now. Players who should have been sold haven’t left Ibrox, while many that have joined are just not up to scratch.

Last January, Scott Wright arrived from Aberdeen and Jack Simpson was brought on board from Bournemouth. The first is a squad filler, while the second cannot be trusted over a makeshift centre-back and can be written off after just a dozen appearances.

The summer window was even worse. It would result in Gerrard’s relationships with key Ibrox figures disintegrating and ultimately leave him in the position where he felt he had to quit for Aston Villa in November rather than finishing what he had started this season.

The platitudes about adding quality and not quantity and reinvesting in the squad are all fine and well. Talk is cheap, though, and actions ultimately speak louder than words.

The winning of the league was the completion of the job for many members of Gerrard’s squad and that was the time to cash in and recycle. Instead, players that were asked to go again haven’t been able to hit the heights and their form has dipped and value dropped as a result.

Connor Goldson will leave for nothing in the summer. Given their contract situations, Filip Helander, Joe Aribo, Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos must either sign on or be sold off.

Rangers have been stale since the start of the season and their strike rate in the transfer market this term has not been impressive. Gerrard, and now Giovanni van Bronckhorst, must take their share of the blame for that, but the focus is fixed on Ross Wilson, the sporting director, and the Ibrox board for the strategy and its implementation.

Nnamdi Ofoborh has yet to kick a ball for Rangers and has a host of players between him and a starting spot. John Lundstram is one, but his Rangers career won’t last longer than 12 months and his signing has been a costly, very costly in fact, error of judgement.

Fashion Sakala is erratic but bright and has some promise. Juninho Bacuna’s contract was a waste of paper and ink and he has already departed for Birmingham City.

Then we come to the window, one which saw Nathan Patterson leave for Everton, that closed this week. Time will tell whether James Sands and Mateusz Zukowski prove to be shrewd acquisitions or relatively inexpensive gambles that don’t pay off.

Amad Diallo and Aaron Ramsey don’t fit into the cheap and cheerful category, though, and their arrivals at Ibrox were almost an admission of the desperate situation that the champions found themselves in.

Diallo may have thought enough of his debut in Dingwall to post a highlights reel on social media but he was anonymous in the Old Firm fixture and he still has it all to prove in Glasgow.

Given his lack of experience and first team action, it is perhaps no surprise that he was overwhelmed by the occasion. But that raises the question of why Rangers are now relying so heavily on someone who could be a great player when the stakes are as high this season?

The signing of Ramsey is naturally exciting and intriguing, but it is nothing more than a short-term fix to solve a problem that should never have existed in the first place and one that is of Rangers’ own making.

The Welshman adds star attraction and quality to the squad but he wasn’t fit enough to play at Parkhead and now has just 14 league games to make a substantial impact for a side that find themselves in desperate need of a spark.

On paper, the champions are still good enough to win title 56 this term. On the park, the players have questions to answer over their desire and Van Bronckhorst must convince that he has what it takes to be a successful Rangers manager.

The price of failure this season is huge at Ibrox. If Rangers are left counting the cost, it will be the culmination of a series of mistakes at all levels and the ramifications will be longer lasting that just one unsuccessful title defence.

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