Hello and welcome back to season four of the Rangers Way, a recap is that we have dominated Scottish football over the last 3 seasons winning 3 league titles in a row, 3 Scottish cups and 2 League cups. Also in my introduction piece I had a 5 year plan for progression which looked at European Progress and in my fourth season the aim was to make the last 16 of the Champions League, could we do it? Let’s see..
Our flirtation with a 3-4-3 has been put to the back burner for now but it has it’s advantages in certain types of games, ie the away leg against top European sides we may utilise it but in any case I am very happy with our first 11 and this is without a key player Patrick Roberts who is sidelined for the season with an injury along with centre back talent Segura.
So were given a transfer budget of £8 million which was supplemented with the sales of a few first team players, we also let go of a few fringe players who wouldn’t cut it anymore.
Because of this I needed a left back as a back up and Mustapha Tahri Joutey was available for a cheap loan and looks competent, Jovic was once again available on loan and after 28 goals last season I would be mad not to take another chance.
A host of young prospects were brought in for the future including Lafitte, Pereira and Amrani – the latter had interest from Real Madrid. Big money was spent on Abdelhak Nouri who I think is a special talent and with Hourihane ageing it’s a top signing given he’s an upgrade too.
Guimaraes comes in on loan due to season long injury to talented centre back Segura, and in Ben Kane we have a talented academy boy who steps up at just 17 to a role in the first team squad.
Presnel Kimpembe is a cracking loan signing and makes the loss of Tin Jedvaj not seem as bad, finally and our biggest and best signing is Thomas Lemar who is just frightening.
Signed on an initial loan deal, I was able to make this permanent just before the new year for £5 million with me getting worried Monaco would get him tied down to a new deal.
There are too many to deal with each player however there were three categories here – young players moved out on loan, fringe or poor players who would move on and first team players who we sold on for profit.
The big three deals were the loss of Tin Jedvaj, Lucas Silva and Ravel Morrison. With Morrison this was a deal I actioned and was keen on due to his inconsistency and my belief he couldn’t cut at elite level.
With Lucas Silva, I had already decided I couldn’t have him and Samper on those combined wages so he had to go. I wanted £8-10 million but clubs wouldn’t bite for anything higher than £3 million but I was able to negotiate and sold him to Mainz for £4.5 million, a slight profit.
The biggest loss was Tin Jedvaj, he should have been our centre back for many years but a minimum fee release clause forced on me as a non negotiable clause had been the catalyst for the loss of a key player.
Initially it was fine and he was happy with us, then after 6 months Marseille bid for him well under our valuation of him so I rejected it and since then his mood has been from very poor to abysmal despite performances still being strong.
Now the issue is because his attitude was so poor I could never get him to talk about a new deal so A.C Milan activated his release clause at just £6.25 million, upon signing with Milan his worth was £17 million.
A few others moved on but the only one worth mentioning is Lee Wallace who couldn’t cut it with Owen Miller dazzling with us, he wanted a new challenge in any case and had been a class act in our early stages. He’s currently with Fulham.
Due to Scottish football having a bit of a rise, the league winners would go in to the group stages for this season and next season which meant we missed out on three qualifying rounds..
Due to only having played in Europe in 2 of the 5 season co-efficient cycle, we had moved up to the high of 38th in European football but that meant we were still 4th seeds. Our Champions League group was so nice to us though and in it we would face Atleti, Spartak Moscow and Olympiakos.
I felt we could finish in 2nd place here and get to the knockout rounds, we would start off with a 2-0 win over Olympiakos at Ibrox. We had control of the game without getting the breakthrough but Lemar stepped up with a goal and assist in the last 12 minutes.
We would follow that up with a 4-1 dismantling of Spartak, in Moscow. A double from Clough and goals from Lemar and Fossum would see us 4 up before Moscow pulled a late consolation goal back.
6 points would represent our best run in my tenure and this was after just 2 games, now the double header against a good Atleti side was not easy but somehow they had only picked up 1 point so far.
We were the far better side in Madrid but would lose 3-1 to 3 deadly counters, in the return leg at Ibrox we would batter them 5-1 in the best display I’ve seen from the lads.
2 incredible free kicks from James Tavernier and goals from Barrie Mckay, Iver Fossum and Zach Clough would see us romp home with the three points.
At this stage I just had to get 3 points to win the group from the two remaining games, we were 2-0 up against Olympiakos away and collapsed to a 3-2 defeat as we always like to do things the hard way it seems. A 5-0 in our last game against Spartak at Ibrox sealed the group win with a brace from Mckay and goals from Fossum, Lemar and Clough.
A shoutout to Thomas Lemar who scored 3 times and assisted 6 times in a devastating group stage campaign, this is the next level we brought him in for and he delivered.
As group winners we would of course face one of 7 2nd placed sides, I fancied my chances against about 4 of the 7 and wanted to miss Real Madrid, Bayern and Inter.
We would of course face Real Madrid, this will be tough with them La Liga winners and their CL record being as such – 16/17 winners, 17/18 finalists, 18/19 Quarter finalists defeated by Juve who went on to win it.
It’s not like me to be defensively focused but 15 clean sheets in 21 league games is excellent considering we had our worst defensive season of 42 goals conceded last season.
7 goals conceded so far and an unbeaten start to the season is very pleasing. This also makes it 110 league games stretching back to 20th February 2017, approaching three years since any team apart from Celtic have beaten us in the league.
Actually frustrated to have drawn 3 of these games, only the Celtic and Aberdeen draws were justified but we’re in a good position, we started off well with 3 straight wins before dropping points to early challengers Hearts who would drop off.
This was followed up by another spell of 3 wins then a draw and we didn’t put on a winning streak until November when we won 7 games in a row without conceding at all, 19 goals scored for 0 against was a great spell for us.
Surprisingly Dundee are our closest challengers so to beat them back to back was vital, in the 2-0 game we were down to 10 men for 45 minutes through a terrible challenge from Fossum.
Big mentions go to Zach Clough who has scored 17 goals, 12 in the league, Thomas Lemar with 13 goals and 17 assists overall and James Tavernier with a 7.81 average rating and with 2 goals and 9 assists, so deadly from whipped balls.
Notable mentions also go to Nouri with 9 goals and 5 assists and Owen Miller with a 7.56 average rating and gives the defence great balance as the more defensive full back.
Scottish League cup
We had won the League cup on 2 of our previous 3 attempts and once again I wanted us to win more silverware, success is ingrained in this football club and again we were by far the best side in the country.
Needing extra time to progress past Ross County was a shock but then followed up with big 3-0 and 3-1 wins over Hearts and Aberdeen with Lemar scoring three times over these games, the stage was set for an Old Firm final.
Three first half goals from Nouri, Samper and Clough saw off Celtic and we ran out deserved League cup winners and that was now 9 trophies won out of a possible 10, excellent.
In other news..
I haven’t done a recap of what’s happened elsewhere on the save so thought I’d bring things up to speed, in the English Premier League Manchester Utd, Manchester City and Chelsea have all won the league so it is very competitive with Ancelotti now the City boss and Everton have been in the Championship for the last 2 seasons.
Barcelona won La Liga in 16/17 and 17/18 before Real won it last season, Real have also won the Champions League for the 12th time in 16/17, Man City won it for the first time in 17/18 and Juventus won it last season but Buffon had retired by then..
Bayern have won consecutive titles in Germany whilst Napoli have won Serie A once and Juve twice and there has been some big transfers such as Dybala to City for just £42 million, Renato Sanches to Real Madrid for £85 million and Ousmane Dembele to City for £76 million
Finally Atleti did some incredible business with their re-signing Diego Costa in summer 2018 for £7.25 million and selling him a year later to PSG for £60 million. He’s 31 years old
I think that’s everything covered for the winter break in season 4, a strong season so far, do we have any hope against Real Madrid? What have you made of our signings?
Thank you for reading, it is really appreciated. If you also want to discuss anything you can ask me anything on my twitter which is below, join and speak on my slack channel “johnmcintosh-19” or in the comments section here, I’d love some interaction on this series and please RT the promoted tweet, it really helps.
Twitter – @JohnMcIntosh19