Rangers suffered two defeats in a matter of days this week to bring Steven Gerrard’s side crashing down to earth – but have the Gers’ early-season struggles been a result of their own recent successes?
Steven Gerrard’s side cruised past Livingston last weekend in their opening competitive fixture of the 2021/22 season before back-to-back defeats by Malmo and Dundee United in the Champions League qualifying rounds and Scottish Premiership.
Fans have been picking over the bones of the defeats in the days and hours since with everything from poor preparation to a lack of effort or being spooked by Dundee United’s 5000 fans at Tannadice.
However, one suggestion that does carry some plausibility is the lack of any early European qualifiers this season has left Rangers a bit off the pace so far.
In previous seasons the Gers have started their competitive fixtures as early as the first two weeks of July and have, by the time the Premiership kicks off, as many as four competitive games under their belts – however it is also worth pointing out that Rangers had played seven Premiership games before a ball was kicked in the Europa League last season.
This season, as a result of Rangers’ impressive European form under Gerrard, the Gers didn’t kick off their Champions League qualifying campaign until the third qualifying round and it could have had an effect on the Light Blues’ players.
It would be simplistic to simply point the finger at that as the sole reason for Rangers’ poor start to the new season, but with only three games played in all competitions it is far from the time for Gers fans to panic.
One league defeat in 40 games is an outstanding standard to set and Gerrard will be well aware of the pressure that is on him to build on last season’s record-breaking league triumph rather than see it become a one-off.
With the winner’s of this season’s Scottish Premiership set to automatically qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, there’s a strong case to be made that winning the title this season is even more important than winning it last season.
A third consecutive defeat when the Gers face Malmo on Tuesday night would be a massive blow – more in a financial sense than a footballing one though – and whatever is the root of the early problems for the Scottish champions, Gerrard has to fix it soon.
In other news, ‘If Lukaku goes to Chelsea’: Fabrizio Romano makes Arsenal transfer claim