Three things Rangers must do if they want to get something out of this season
COMMENT By Matt Farr
The Scottish Premiership season is nearing a return from it’s mid-season slumber, having slipped into the shadows following the heavyweight clash between Celtic and Rangers on New Year’s Eve.
The fixture list in the top-tier took a short break to allow teams to take time away from the rigorous schedule, regroup and re-strengthen ahead of a return in little over a week’s time.
Clubs will no doubt feel re-invigorated by the rest, and that could spell out an even more fiercely-competitive campaign during the second-half of the season.
Among those clubs looking to make the biggest impact will be Rangers, who currently sit second in the Premiership in their first season back in the Scottish top-flight.
However, much work still lies ahead for Rangers and manager Mark Warburton, because despite their recent absence, now that they have returned to the top-flight, normal service has very much resumed.
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Expectations are high, and Warburton will be judged at the end of the campaign. To help them get the best out of their remaining fixtures, Football Insider reveals three things that Rangers must do in the second half of the season.
They must ignore Celtic at all costs
In most circumstances, telling a team to ignore their great rivals would cause somewhat of a stir, but this is no ordinary circumstance.
Celtic are set to resume their league campaign 19 points clear at the top of the Premiership, a lead which they can extend by a further three points before Rangers even get back down to business on January 28.
Therefore, bar some miracle, the title race is essentially over. But there are no guarantees that Rangers will finish second either.
Just two points separate Rangers from third-placed Aberdeen, and the Dons have a game in-hand. Rangers’ ambitions for the second-half of the season will be to ensure they pip Aberdeen – or whoever else it may be – to that second-placed spot.
A lot has been said in the media recently about what Rangers need to do in the transfer market to catch Celtic. There are some valid points raised, but Rangers cannot afford to do anything else right now other than to eliminate Celtic from the picture.
If they spend too much time worrying about closing the gap, they will suffer. They can re-asses in the summer, but it is not what they need right now.
The new signings must pay dividends
The financial gap between Celtic and Rangers has become a tired debate this season, but while there is little that Rangers can do to match them outright, there are still some things that can be done.
Essentially, Rangers must spend as big as they can. They themselves know the risks of falling into further financial trouble, but that is the only way they can return to the top.
However, manager Mark Warburton has been somewhat of a wheeler-dealer in the transfer market, and continues to look for bargain deals – particularly youngsters and loanees.
That strategy has seen him bring in the likes of Jon Toral and Emerson Hyndman on loan until the end of the season, but it has received mixed reactions from fans.
Though it didn’t quite turn out as expected, Rangers need to do more business like they did with Joey Barton in the summer.
Understandably, some areas of the Ibrox faithful want more of that ambition in terms of transfers, and the new additions will have a big point to prove in the second half of the season.
They must focus on their priorities
Setting aside the Premiership title, what is Rangers’ ambition for the remainder of the season? Is finishing second in the league the priority, or will success in the Scottish Cup be sufficient?
Warburton will have his eyes on achieving both, but there may come a point in the season when they have to choose between them.
Of course, failure to beat Motherwell on Saturday in the fourth round could solve the problem for them; but it is a winnable competition as far as Rangers are concerned, and for the foreseeable future, they will set about fighting on both fronts.
That means keeping players fit, building momentum, and winning as many of their games as possible in the next few months.
In other Rangers news, new signing Emerson Hyndman has left this Twitter message after making his debut for the club.