Determining whether last season was a successful one for Rangers isn’t easy.
On one hand, the Ibrox club lost their Scottish Premiership title to Celtic when they appeared to be in a position of dominance at the start of the 2021/22 campaign.
But, on the other, Rangers made a sensational run to the Europa League final and lifted the Scottish Cup.
In the midst of all this, Giovanni van Bronckhorst replaced Steven Gerrard after the latter left mid-season to join Aston Villa.
This change wasn’t in Rangers’ plan for the future and it took some time for van Bronckhorst to get a firm grip of the squad he inherited.
Now, with the Dutchman preparing for his first full season in charge, he is putting his stamp on Rangers.
Van Bronckhorst’s learning curve might have cost Rangers last season’s Scottish Premiership title, but the 47-year-old demonstrated his tactical flexibility and suitability for the job over time.
As shown in the knockout rounds of the Europa League, van Bronckhorst is capable of toggling between a defensive and attacking approach, even within the same match.
This quality was most evident in the Europa League semi-final against RB Leipzig when van Bronckhorst fielded the same 11 players in both legs, but used them in very different ways.
Rangers played a compact, conservative game in Germany, yet played on the front foot and scored three times at home.
Under Gerrard, Rangers looked to the full backs for width. However, van Bronckhorst wants width from players higher up the pitch.
Ryan Kent, in particular, has been emboldened to make quick entries into positions where the winger can get into high value attacking areas and get shots away on goal.
Alfredo Morelos has also found his best form again since the change in management at Ibrox last November with the Colombian striker now instructed to take up more opportunistic positions inside the box.
In contrast, Gerrard often asked Morelos to drop deep, which aided his all-round game, but didn’t do much for his goal tally.
After winning the ball, van Bronckhorst’s team are usually quick to attack, whether that is through a sequence of quick passes or a more direct ball into an outlet further forward.
When Rangers set up in a back three, it is most commonly with John Lundstram as one of the centre backs, but the 28-year-old is charged with starting attacking moves from deep through his efficient use of the ball.
The departure of Joe Aribo to Southampton will give van Bronckhorst a space to fill on the right side of his midfield, where the Nigerian was most often deployed in the second half of last season with the freedom to cut inside and create from central areas. However, the return of Ianis Hagi from a long-term injury will help in this regard.
Rangers could also use another striker to round out their options up front, but the real intrigue will be found in how van Bronckhorst makes use of what is already at Ibrox.
The early indications are that more academy graduates will be fast-tracked into the Rangers first team.
Alex Lowry caught the eye in the second half of last season while 18-year-old Leon King is also expected to be given an opportunity to prove his worth in defence this term.
This season promises to be a compelling one in Scottish football and Rangers are better equipped now than they were at the time of Gerrard’s exit.
Van Bronckhorst might have faced some questions in the early days of his tenure, but the Dutchman has produced answers.
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