At the back of seven last Wednesday evening, you'd be hard pressed to find an unhappy Rangers fan.
Yes, a dreadful draw in Perth the previous weekend had basically ended any hopes we had for a 55th title but progress in Europe and the chance of winning the Scottish Cup meant confidence was renewed again. Our impressive victory in Braga meant the players had showed once again they had the quality required and the management team had fixed any systemic issues with the tactics.
Fast forward 72 hours and all that was was undone with another defeat at Tynecastle. Not only had the players capitulated once more but the manner of the defeat was even more of a concern. We were tactically inept, physically weak, mentally fragile and simply outfought right across the pitch. Yes, on paper we may supposedly have more quality than Hearts but after several very difficult trips to Edinburgh, you'd think the players (and manager) would know by now the very least you can expect is a fight for every single blade of grass. Instead, not one of our players assumed responsibility for their own performance and the assurance we seen in Portugal was replaced by fear. Post-match things didn't improve with the manager less than clear about his future juxtaposed with fan frustration over his inflexibility with player choice and formation. Add to this the disciplinary issues over Alfredo Morelos, the positive events of last Wednesday seemed a life-time ago.
At the time of writing, things have settled down somewhat. Tuesday morning's press conference has seen Gerrard commit his future to the club, Morelos has apparently shown 'remorse for letting down his team-mates and fans' and the supporters have reflected constructively on Saturday's defeat across forums. OK, we're not quite ready to charge the Alamo yet but I think most fans realise that despite recent poor form, progress has still been made this season and a change of manager along with a complete rebuild of the squad may not be the best option available to us. However, neither should that excuse further poor performance.
At the very least, the fans need to see a genuine reaction from the players to recent events at Ibrox this midweek. It may be unlikely we'll witness us back to our best form immediately but 90mins of obvious graft, commitment and spirit will be the minimum we expect. Unfortunately, further injuries to Jack, Arfield, Helander and Polster may mean we don't see whole-scale changes to the team and the manager may give certain players one final chance to show the fact they do actually care about their Rangers futures but neither can Gerrard allow such a terrible display go without change - both with regard to personnel and formation, though the latter may not happen against Hamilton given the expected nature of the game.
In defence, I don't expect many, if any alterations to recent matches. Allan McGregor might not be the worst offender of late in goal but he really needs to command his box a lot better. Too often, he's stuck to his line and not able to take the pressure off by taking crosses or sweeping up long balls. And screaming at officials doesn't show you care as much as actually ensuring the defenders in front of you know what they're doing. Nevertheless, the performance of the four in front of him hasn't been good enough with only the away game in Portugal an indicator of how good these players can actually be.
If Matt Polster was fit, he would replace Tavernier and the skipper will still be very lucky if he keeps his position ahead of someone like Nathan Patterson. The captain has had a very poor season all things considered and simply must improve his contribution offensively and at the back. Patience has now run out. Meanwhile, Connor Goldson has very much been up and down this campaign and we can't keep using the excuse of differing central partners for his inconsistent form. Even so, it will be interesting to see if Gerrard changes this partner again tomorrow. As good as Edmundson was in Braga, he was the polar opposite in Edinburgh. Indeed, shortages in midfield may mean he's pushed forward, allowing a return for Niko Katic who has also been very poor of late. At left back Borna Barisic has reverted back to his ineffectual self of last season and will also struggle to retain his position. As a unit the defence must improve and not one player is immune from such criticism.
In midfield, the loss of Jack and Arfield will result in changes within the engine room for the visit of Hamilton and again for the weekend. Steven Davis is another key player who has been nothing short of awful recently but, as with Tavernier, our lack of options may see the manager expect him to turnaround his form. Glen Kamara - another who has been very poor when selected - may find himself back in the team by default with a third player selected from Edmundson, Aribo, Hagi and Halliday. I would actually play Hagi in the deeper playmaker role and see if he can be the one to get us to play a bit quicker from further down the park.
In attack, I'm expecting a three-pronged approach. For all his faults and recent issues, Alfredo Morelos remains our best player so it would be a big surprise if he didn't start. Kamberi is again available for selection, so after some decent showings, the Albanian international should start with Ryan Kent also played off the Colombian. Kent has shown glimpses of his talent but they're fee and far between for a £7m outlay. The likes of Jordan Jones, Greg Stewart, Sheyi Ojo and Brandon Barker might expect to grab a place in Kent's stead but, other than Stewart who can create in and around packed defences, Kent arguably remains our best option.
All in all, the conundrum for the manager is fairly clear. His preferred XI haven't been performing but neither do we have players ready and capable of stepping up in case of poor form or injury. Yet, can the manager really afford not to make changes when the same players keep letting him and the fans down? And, as much as we can cast doubt on the ability of a Jones, Ojo or Barker, they've not had the same kind of extended run in the team that others have. Why were the signed if they're not to be played regularly when others aren't doing the business?
Ultimately, I don't think the manager can let what has happened of late go. He has to change the team and he has to change how we line up. It might be difficult to make defensive changes but further forward we can and we must. That's the leadership required here and the players have to be made to understand if they don't play well - or least work hard - they will be replaced. Second best isn't good enough at Rangers and that's a lesson that now needs to be given at every opportunity.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3):
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