Is Steven Gerrard to blame for Rangers’ dip in form?

Graham Ruthven by Graham Ruthven / 14 February 2020, 10:25

In retrospect, this week might, once all has been said and done, be looked back upon as the week the Scottish Premiership title race was decided. 

Rangers’ defeat to Kilmarnock on Wednesday night coupled with Celtic’s comprehensive home win over Hearts saw a 10-point gap open up at the top of the table. 

It’s a long way back from here for Steven Gerrard’s side, so can the Ibrox outfit still save their season?

What has gone wrong?

History has repeated itself for Rangers. 

Last season, Gerrard’s men drew level with Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership table with an Old Firm derby victory before the winter break, only to suffer a collapse upon the season’s resumption. 

This season, the notion was that Rangers had the bottle for a title race, but they have once again allowed their form to dip drastically after the winter break.

Rather than being revitalised by the break, Rangers look slow, sluggish and short of ideas. 

Alfredo Morelos, who netted 28 times before the turn of the year, has now scored just once in his last five appearances with Jermain Defoe’s injury leaving Gerrard short of a deputy to rotate in and out. 

The momentum that the Ibrox side had built is now gone. Instead, every match now feels like a slog. Nothing is coming easily.

Is Steven Gerrard to blame?

The Rangers manager shouldered some of the blame after Wednesday’s damaging defeat to Kilmarnock, but also pointed the finger at his players for their recent collapse in form. “I thought we were in a better place than what we've shown over the last four-six weeks,” he sought to explain. 

“I thought we had the mentality and the characters to sustain a push but on the evidence of the last four-five weeks I'm getting proven wrong. 

“We came here tonight and it was a pressure game in a stadium where you know you are going to be under the cosh. The reality is that we couldn't cope.”

One must question whether public criticism is what Rangers’ fragile players need at this moment in time. In the past Gerrard’s harsh words have been seen as a way to pressure the club’s board into delivering him the players he needs, but the January window has only just closed. The squad Gerrard has now is the one he will have until the end of the season.

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Title race over?

Can they turn it around?

Of course, there is still a long way to go in the Scottish Premiership season. In fact, there’s almost a third of the 2019/20 campaign to be played. Rangers’ problem is that Celtic have now hit their stride and show no sign of slipping up. While Neil Lennon’s side looked somewhat vulnerable earlier in the season, they have now won their last six matches on the spin, scoring 22 times in the process.

The home Old Firm derby on March 15 will present Rangers with the chance to claw back some of the difference on their rivals, but on current form Celtic have to be considered favourites to win that match. That truly would be the pin in Rangers’ title hopes. It might only be February, but their season is now on the line with every match they will play between now and the end of the season.

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