Date:17th December 2021 at 10:33am
Written by:

By Duncan Wright

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s something that sticks with me from my childhood, wise words given to me from my mother before venturing off to high school for the first time. I’d like to think I heeded that advice as I met my new schoolmates and teachers for the first time. For Giovanni Van Bronckhurst there is no doubting the impression he has made to the start of his Rangers managerial career.

Gio remains unbeaten after his first six games as Rangers manager, which has included two European ties, trips to Easter Road and Tynecastle and  the terrible pitch at the Tony Macaroni arena. The team have scored 14 goals across the six games and in their last four league games have, to use, Gio’s own phrase, ‘kept the zero’. It has been pretty much the perfect start to a new era at Ibrox ensuring that the first impressions the Rangers supporters have of Van Bronckhurst are extremely positive.

Whilst results are, ultimately what matters, there is much more to like about the first six games of the Van Bronckhurst reign.  The players, and therefore the team as a whole, look refreshed and reinvigorated which has translated into exciting and enjoyable performances. In Wednesday’s fixture vs St Johnstone Rangers had 11 shots, 8 of which were on target and if it had not been forZander Clark in the St Johnstone goal it could easily have been a more comprehensive victory than 2-0.

There is a dynamism and directness to Rangers play which was severely lacking under the opening games of this season whilst Steven Gerrard was still at the helm. There is a desire, and a new found confidence, to play through teams instead of around teams, whilst also accepting that at times it is again to go long and turn the opposition defenders. There is now  an unpredictability to Rangers play and opposition teams cannot be sure of how Rangers will attack.

The shape of the team has changed from that under Gerrard, with Van Bronckhurst noticeably telling his wide players to stay wide and provide width within the game and to stretch opposition defences. In addition, particularly in domestic fixtures Gio has dispensed with the two holding midfielders which was a hallmark of the Gerrard era and instead deployed Scott Arfield and Joe Aribo into the midfield who can provide the fluidity and flexibility to essentially perform the role of number 8, 10 or even 6.

And whilst the team itself looks fresher there have been even more noticeable changes in the demeanour and desire of individuals. Borna Barasic is rediscovering his form of twelve months ago, Allan McGregor is proving yet again why he remains the Rangers number one, and despite the ongoing contractual situation, Connor Goldson is once again displaying rock solid defensive performances. He is also an integral part of Rangers attacking options with his searching cross field passes, best exemplified in the pass to Joe Aribo against Hearts recently.

Going forward Van Bronckhurst has re-energised the Rangers attack with each member of the forward line recapturing the kind of form that was integral to last season’s title win. Against St Johnstone Ryan Kent gave a scintillating display of wing play featuring pace, skill, trickery and most importantly quality delivery and a goal to cap a wonderful performance from him. On the right Ianis Hagi offers sublime technical ability whilst  Fashion Sakala gives the manager an alternative style of play with his raw pace. And through the middle Alfredo Morelos is back smiling and scoring. He has 4 goals in his last 5 games, an excellent return and perhaps a change of approach with the Columbian is providing dividends.

In the middle of the park Glen Kamara has been given the opportunity to step into the spotlight with Van Bronckhurst’s desire to play with only one holding midfielder. Separated from Steven Davis, Kamara seems to be driving forward more in games whilst still providing the defensive cover when needed. Scott Arfield, who Van Bronckhurst has admitted he knew little about prior to taking the job, is back to his brilliant best, breaking forward from midfield into the opposition box and leading by example at all times. And of course what about Joe Aribo? The young Nigerian is getting better and better in every game and is thriving on the freedom that he has been given under the new manager. His close control, mesmerising skill, athleticism and all around ability make him a joy to watch currently.

At Wednesday evening’s press conference Van Bronckhurst appeared relaxed and happy. He was content to answer questions from the assembled press, joking that he had missed the Scottish rain. Stepping into a new job and delivering the results he has means Van Bronckhurst should be smiling. If he and his players deliver an equally impressive set of results in the four games up until the Winter break, Rangers fans will be equally as relaxed and happy.

 

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