Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst assesses Hibernian test as champions aim to build Premiership momentum
GIOVANNI VAN BRONCKHORST will always attempt to move forward where and when it is possible. In this instance, there is a requirement to look back.
As the Dutchman aims to build for a brighter future at Rangers, he need not peer too far into the past in search of inspiration. A familiar foe stands in his way on Wednesday evening.
The first sight that Van Bronckhorst got of his new side came at Hampden earlier this month and the initial impressions were not positive or encouraging ones.
A 3-1 defeat to Hibernian was an ominous way for the champions to begin life after Steven Gerrard and another potential cup medal has already slipped through their grasps this season.
The chastening evening did at least give Van Bronckhorst a look at Hibs and give him an insight into the way that Jack Ross sets his team up. The need for improvement from within is a more important factor, however.
Rangers will head to Easter Road with a point to prove. It is crucial that they earn three as Van Bronckhorst seeks to build some momentum in the Premiership title race.
“Of course we looked back to the game where we played them last,” Van Bronckhorst said. “It will be a difficult game on Wednesday because it is not the same way of playing.
“I have a different style and a different play than the team used on that day. Still you can see the threats that Hibs have got with their system, with the players they have.
“I think they were on the day very solid, very good and were very clinical in the chances they got. They deservedly won the game on the day.
“That is what we take from the game last week and Wednesday is a new chance for us to get the three points.”
Just days after witnessing that Hampden horror show, Van Bronckhorst saw Rangers raise their game on the Europa League stage as Sparta Prague were overcome at Ibrox.
Victory away to Livingston on Sunday was another step in the right direction as goals from Scott Arfield, Joe Aribo and Fashion Sakala clinched the points.
It was the first match in a potentially defining run of league fixtures for Rangers and the second in the sequence can now be approached with positivity by the champions.
“I am very pleased,” Van Bronckhorst said. “You want to win the game, that is the first objective you have to have. Get the three points.
“And I think also the way we played in difficult circumstances, on an artificial pitch, it wasn’t easy. I think we started the game really well, deservedly were 2-0 up and the only thing we need to do better is the last 15 minutes.
“We lost a bit of control of the game, which Livingston could come back with the goal and had a big chance to make it 2-2. In those moments in the game we need to be more clinical and more defensively solid.
“The second half we did better than the first half because we didn’t give any chances away and the only thing I can tell my players is to make sure that they scored much earlier.
“We had a chance but only got the goal from Sakala from the corner kick. I think we dominated the game really well but forgot to close the game earlier and at the earliest possible time.”
Before Van Bronckhorst gets a chance to breathe and take stock during the winter break, the new Ibrox boss faces a hectic run that could shape Rangers’ title destiny.
Trips to Hearts, Aberdeen and Celtic are also on the horizon, as well as a handful of home encounters that just have to be won in the coming weeks.
Van Bronckhorst has tinkered with the personnel and the approach so far. Given the options he has, there is scope for further tweaks in search of improvement.
Van Bronckhorst said: “As I said before, it is quite a big squad, a bit squad with a lot of different qualities and strengths within the players in the back line, the midfield and also with our strikers.
“I know to be dynamic in the system and change the system is very important now in modern football. I think we also have the players to do so.
“In that objective, I am very happy with the balance in the squad.
“We will prepare every game differently because different opponents need different strategies and different players as well. I am just happy with the depth of the squad that this team has.”
Those options could be bolstered once again at Easter Road as Kemar Roofe seeks to return to the squad following a knock sustained during international duty with Jamaica.
And there is positive news on the fitness of Filip Helander as he continues through his rehabilitation programme after knee surgery in September.
“I think we don’t have any other injuries,” Van Bronckhorst said. “Everyone came out of the game really good.
“Of course tired, but nothing important for me that there aren’t players available for Wednesday hopefully.
“Kemar Roofe was on the training pitch today (Monday) so we will assess him [on Tuesday] and maybe he can be part of the squad on Wednesday. The other ones are still out of the game.
“Filip is outside on the pitch again, so we have to slowly bring him back to fitness levels required to play games.
“Hopefully, we expect him to take part in training some time this month.
“He’s been an important player for the team and with him being fit I have more options for the back.”
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