First impressions count. Especially when a new manager arrives in the middle of a season with an urgent need to hit the ground running.
In that respect, Giovanni van Bronckhorst couldn’t have asked for much more from his opening week as Rangers manager. Two wins, Europa League progress secured and a Premiership lead maintained.
Challenges keep on coming at an intense rate, but Van Bronckhorst has cleared the initial hurdles with impressive assurance. Gaining a measure of revenge against Hibernian on Tuesday night is his next task.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst couldn’t have asked for more from his first week as Rangers boss
He will have learned a lot already. And, I’m sure, decided there are a lot more positives than negatives within this squad.
If the focus and — as much debated recently — the hunger remain present, then the quality is certainly there. Against both Sparta Prague and Livingston, Van Bronckhorst got the answers he was looking for.
In saying that, it’s not been perfect. Defensively, Rangers can still cause concern. That has been a season-long issue, but Van Bronckhorst got his first, real close-up look at it through Livingston’s goal on Sunday. Connor Goldson misread a long ball forward and it led to an unnecessary concession.
I don’t think there is any doubt centre-back would be a priority area if Van Bronckhorst has scope to make additions in January. He’s tight for options there through injuries in any case, but the whole scenario surrounding Goldson adds another complication to the picture.
But the whole scenario surrounding Connor Goldson adds another complication to the picture
We’re only a matter of weeks away from the former Brighton defender being able to speak to other clubs. His form has not been great. There is noise around everything he does.
I’ve been there in my own career so I can understand some of his situation. Right now, it’s not one that’s really benefiting either the player or the club.
When you’re coming to the end of a long-term contract, as happened with me at Rangers in 1998, you are suddenly faced with uncertainty. I don’t know whether Goldson wants to leave, or whether he wants to stay and the club are unwilling to meet his demands. Whatever the case, it’s awkward.
Clearly, it’s in Goldson’s interest to play as well as he can, even if he is not going to be at Rangers. That’s just simple logic in terms of attracting offers.
The problem comes if your performances take a dip. And Goldson, for whatever reason, hasn’t been playing nearly as well as he did last season.
One factor might be the injury to Filip Helander that has broken up their successful partnership, but every time he makes a mistake people jump on it to say it’s because he is about to leave or his head has been turned or it’s all about money.
Right now, Goldson’s situation is not one that’s really benefiting either the player or the club
It can become a bit of a vicious circle because the weight of that external speculation can feed back into your displays on the pitch.
I think we can see elements of that just now. Goldson’s been struggling for consistency and it seems to me as though he is almost looking for excuses at times. You could question some of his body language on the pitch — and his comments off it.
I don’t think we really need to go back over what he said about some hunger being lost within the squad after the Hibs loss at Hampden.
I felt it was an alarming admission and said so in last week’s column. Clearly, it might not have been the best thing for him to go public, given the narrative it created. But I don’t think anyone could say he did it because he didn’t care. He was clearly hurting after such an awful defeat.
It will be really interesting to see how Van Bronckhorst looks to handle Goldson’s position. Because there isn’t really a simple solution.
Whatever the 28-year-old’s current issues, Rangers simply cannot do without him unless they are able to make a top quality defensive signing in January.
That’s not always easy in the mid-season market. Perhaps the Dutch connection might help Van Bronckhorst when it comes to looking at possibilities in his homeland, but it’s a huge challenge in terms of both availability and finance.
Rangers cannot do without him unless they are able to make a top quality defensive signing
Even if the right man could be found, would it then be worth selling Goldson for the relatively small fee he would bring in during January? I’m not sure.
He’s played a really important part in restoring Rangers to success so I just hope there isn’t a downbeat end to his time at the club. He deserves to be remembered positively by supporters, absolutely no question about that.
While Van Bronckhorst tries to find ways to tighten up the defence he has inherited, he will surely be happy with the number of chances his side have created over those first two games.
Shifting the wingers wider seems to have given Ryan Kent a boost but, for me, it’s possible Joe Aribo could be the real individual winner from the slight tactical tweaks we have seen.
I love Aribo’s skills. The unpredictability of him. He has that wonderful ability to hold the ball in tight areas and still get off a shot or a pass.
He operated as No 10 against Sparta Prague, had a few chances but couldn’t quite put them away. He then scored a brilliant goal on Sunday and might have added another through the positions he got into.
Van Bronckhorst will surely be happy with the number of chances his side have created over
On the early evidence, he seems to be getting closer to goal under Van Bronckhorst. Aribo scored nine times in his first campaign with Rangers and then eight last season. But he should be in double figures every single year with the depth of his talent. No doubt about that.
Van Bronckhorst and his coaching team will look at Aribo’s exceptional qualities and think his numbers have not been good enough.
He is still developing in his decision- making, but if he seizes this opportunity then he could move on to the next level in his career in terms of goals and assists.
Rangers would also reap the benefits of that. Both in terms of on-field results and Aribo’s value in the transfer market. For Van Bronckhorst, it might prove another early win.