Once again under Manager Steven Gerrard Rangers have shown an outstanding improvement over the last 6 months. Despite a disappointing and rather odd League Cup Final defeat to Celtic in December it has turned out to be a positive month for Rangers with qualification for the last 32 and a first win at Parkhead in over 9 years. With another positive 6 months Rangers are set up perfectly to try and get into the next round of the Europa League, go all out for the Scottish Cup and most importantly the league. This is backed up by visible improvements in the squad and the rich history of the club.
In Europe, Rangers have once again shone and impressed against the oddsand in August became the first team to qualify for the Europa League group stages twice from the first qualifying round. Gerrard has used Ibrox as the catalyst for this and Rangers are still unbeaten under his stewardship at home in Europe. The Rangers manager's win rate in Europe currently stands at 46% and his loss rate sits at 10%. As the club learned in 2008 under Walter Smith sometimes just avoiding defeat in Europe can be a great result and Gerrard has mastered this in his time as Rangers manager. With a packed and noisy Ibrox combined with Rangers ability to grind out results away in Europe there is no reason why the last 16 cannot be a real possibility, though Braga will be a tough test.
Domestically there have been huge improvements again. In Gerrard's first six months at the club Rangers failed to reach the final of the league cup and had a mediocre win rate in the league of 55%. However, the majority of fans knew that this was a season of true transition which should have came in the two years previous. This feeling amongst the support along with the fantastic European run gave the support a feeling of goodwill to the new man in charge.
Fast forward to the next 6 months and Rangers improved further with the additions of Steven Davis, Glen Kamara & Jermain Defoe. From January Rangers went on to win 73% of the clubs league matches and started to string together a run of wins which gave the support more hope. The only damper in the second half of that season was losing to Aberdeen in the cup and letting the league slip away so early in to the New Year. However, improvement with such limited resources was clearly evident and it gave hope for the season coming up.
In this last 6 month block it is becoming evident that the manager's ground work is starting to bear fruit. With a bit of extra money to spend and the nucleus of a good squad already at the club the manager went out to bring in quality as well as take a couple of gambles. This squad of players have achieved a level of consistency rarely seen by Rangers teams.
In the first six months under Gerrard, Rangers won 55% of games in the league, the second six months 73% and this third six months Rangers are winning 84% of matches and have only dropped 7 points all season. Of course every Rangers fan still curses those dropped points but when you put it into perspective, this could be something special.
No Rangers team since 1901 have kept up such a win rate over a season. The William Wilton side managed to win 17 out of 20 league games that season (85%). Now of course, there were a lot less games in those days but when you consider the period in time it is a fantastic achievement. In fact in the three seasons from 1898 till 1901 Rangers managed to win 50 games out of 56 which today would be the same as winning 101 games out of 114 (covering 3 seasons).
Since 1955 (when the Scottish top flight started playing 34 or more games) after 19 games only three Rangers' sides have won as many games as the 2019/20 team. The first was Scot Symon then Davie Whyte's 1967-68 team who managed to go 33 games unbeaten only to lose the last game of the season and finish second in the league to Celtic. At this point of the season this Rangers team had won 16 games and drew 3. This Rangers team are perhaps the biggest reminder that every point is precious in a big title race.
The second side was Dick Advocaat's superb 1999/2000 side. As well as competing with the likes of Parma, Bayern Munich and Valencia in Europe, Advocaat's Rangers side were crushing just about everything in sight domestically. After 19 games Rangers had won 16 games, drew 2 and lost 1 (The same as the current side).
The third and final side was Alex McLeish's treble winning side from 2002/03. The team packed with talent who scored for fun went toe to toe with Celtic right to the very end. This was a title battle that only felt won for Rangers when Mikel Arteta hit home an injury time penalty against Dunfermline on the last day of the season. This side have the second biggest win rate over a season after the 67-68 team (82%) since 1901. After 19 games this season this team had won 16 and drew 3.
There have arguably been a lot more famous and successful Rangers' sides than these three but it just proves the superb job Gerrard has done and after three transfer windows he has managed to turn this Rangers side into potentially one of the most consistent in the club's history.
However, where does this really leave the league coming out of the winter break for Rangers? Rangers would say it's all for Rangers to lose with the game in hand whereas across the city they will argue that it's in their hands. This, for Celtic, of course is technically true if you take into account the potential of Rangers not winning the game in hand coupled with two games against Rangers in the spring.
When everything is weighed up the league is completely in the balance with the momentum at Ibrox after the huge victory at Parkhead. However, not just momentum is building at Rangers after a long awaited away win at Parkhead but history shows that Rangers winning away to Celtic weighs more heavily in the title balance than Celtic's win at Ibrox in September.
Only twice since 1975 when a 10 team league was introduced and there became 4 old firms a season have Rangers won at parkhead and failed to win the league (1980-81 and 2006-07). The latter Celtic had virtually won the league by that point. From the same year Rangers have won 19 titles, 14 of those title wins Rangers have won at least once at Parkhead.
On the other hand Celtic since 1975 have won at least once at Ibrox in the league 10 times and failed to win the league. Only the victory at Ibrox in 1992 could be considered a game that Celtic were virtually out the title race. Since 1975, Celtic have won 21 titles and in 4 of those seasons Rangers were not in the top division. In those 17 remaining titles in 10 of those seasons Celtic won at least one game at Ibrox.
Overall this means that Celtic have won 59% of their titles since 1975 (excluding 2012-16) after winning at Ibrox while Rangers from the same year have won 74% of the clubs titles after winning at Parkhead at least once.
Even if we look from 2000 when both sides were balanced and there wasn't much competition outside of Glasgow a similar pattern follows. Rangers have won four times at Parkhead since season 2000/2001 and have went onto win the title three times from that point (75%). Celtic since 00/01 have won at Ibrox at least once in 10 different seasons and gone on to win the league six times (60%).
Then when we take into account fully the amount of times each team hasn't won the league after a win at each others ground the history is also very much with Rangers. After the league restructure in 1975 Rangers first won at Parkhead in 1980 under John Greig. Since then Rangers and Celtic have both played in 34 top flight seasons together and Rangers have only not won the title twice after winning at Parkhead (6% of the time).
This in comparison to Celtic who first won at Ibrox in 1976 after the league restructure. Since then there have been 38 league seasons with both clubs in the top flight and Celtic have failed to win the league title 10 times after winning at Ibrox (26%) of the time.
Since 1975, there have also been seven seasons that both Rangers have won at Parkhead and Celtic have won at Ibrox. In six of these seasons Rangers have gone on to win the league. Celtic haven't managed to equal this achievement since 1980-81 season.
History does suggest that Celtic's best way to keep the title from this Rangers side is to win at Ibrox in March and deny Rangers a win at Parkhead. In reference to the former, since 1975, there have been 40 opportunities for Rangers to win at Parkhead twice and 40 for Celtic to win at Ibrox twice. In those 40 seasons (80 chances in total) it has only happened 6 times (2 for Rangers, 4 for Celtic) and every time that team has won the league.
Celtic have the titles and the experience of winning silverware for now whereas Rangers have the momentum and history which suggests the title race will surely go all the way. However, down to Rangers constant improvement it has become more and more evident since the September that Rangers are the only team in this league that can beat Celtic and themselves.
Every six months Gerrard has improved Rangers and in every block has managed to tick another box. In this next six months domestically there is only one stumbling block left for Gerrard and the club and that is to bring silverware back to Ibrox. With history and a momentum that has been building up for over a year there is no reason why this Rangers side wont be lifting the league title in May.
Thanks for reading,