With that in mind, fans were excited about the new season. Less European qualifiers were required, our transfer business was done before the competitive fixtures kicked off and aside from one or two areas of concern in the team, most fans felt we had squad more than capable of challenging Celtic for the title once again. By the end of August, that confidence remained fairly high - we'd qualified for the Champions League group stage (no small feat with a fine away win in Eindhoven) and were unlucky to drop points at Easter Road ; a match impacted by a red card that was later rescinded.

Less than a week into September though, matters took a turn for the worse. Three quick-fire hammerings from Celtic, Ajax and Napoli with the loss of players to injury as well as the poor form of various others soon put a negative focus onto the manager and our style of play.

At this point it's only fair to note that from the outset the appointment of Gio was one the fans knew would deliver a team conservative in style. 'Keep the Zero' was his mantra and even a Feyenoord supporting guest on our podcast acknowledged the defensive nature of his outlook where he liked his teams to control games as opposed to all-out attack. This had been noted during his first six months at Ibrox with some commentators noting this style worked well in Europe but could be less effective in the SPFL. However, it was also hoped a summer of coaching and new additions to his staff (both playing and off-the-field) would result in that balance being improved.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to have happened.

Indeed, at first glance further European defeats to Liverpool whilst maintaining a winning record domestically may suggest van Bronckhorst has erred in the wrong direction. Perhaps, instead of maintaining our competitiveness in Europe, he’s left us too open in such games in order for us to carry more of a threat into league matches? Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with our form against weaker opposition as much a concern of that against Europe’s elite.

Valid reasons can explain our issues in Europe – the main one being the step up in class from the Europa League to the Champions League. For example, although our Euro wins last season remain impressive, those teams just weren’t on the same level as Liverpool, Ajax or an exciting Napoli side currently top of our group and Serie A. Add in issues with injuries and just some general poor form, accruing even a point from our section may prove beyond us. There’s no immediate shame in that.

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Even so, at the very least, we can expect a well-motivated, well-organised effort in such games. Yes, important players may miss out or one or two can play badly but aside from a reasonable first hour in the two home matches against Napoli and Liverpool, we simply haven’t turned up. Add in a dreadful display away to Union SG in the qualifiers, then the manager has to take ownership of our struggles which aren’t unique to the last few weeks.

In general, though, I think it’s a valid point to separate our European and league efforts this season. In hindsight, qualifying for the CL was perhaps reward enough after reaching the Europa League final – certainly, it represents progress and will be one KPI the manager would be positively judged on.

On the other hand our domestic form has to be viewed differently. Ironically, by and large, results have been fairly good with only five points dropped – two of which at Easter Road along with the defeat to Celtic at Parkhead.; neither of which are unsurprising or unexpected across our history. Goal difference is also reasonable; we’re scoring a fair amount and not conceding too many despite having issues at goalkeeper and defence. A cursory look at Gio’s win rate shows him as high as any Rangers manager even if his sample size is smaller compared to others. Overall, a neutral observer might wonder why so many fans are now calling for the manager to be sacked?

Style of play and quality of performance therein are the main justifications. Despite that longer summer of pre-season preparation, the only tactical changes of note were to a disastrous zonal marking system (soon disposed of), the odd change to a back three in European games (equally less than successful) and using our full-backs inside of the winger (perhaps more down to our captain carrying an injury than a deliberate amendment). In fact, it’s not immediately discernible to much more informed tactical observers than me as to what our playing identity is. But there's certainly no tempo, minimal fluency and we carry a minimal attacking threat for long periods in most games.

The oft talked about ‘horse-shoe’ recycling of possession is used in a negative sense to criticise our ponderous use of the ball and the manager’s preferences for two wingers and long diagonals long sussed out by opposition defences. Gio has also been very clear (or was initially) that he wouldn’t play with two strikers. This means our goal-scoring talisman of recent years has hardly got a look in this term.

Add in other problems, such as the failure to strengthen in central midfield meaning we’re relying on Steven Davis, Scott Arfield and the perennially injured Ryan Jack and our decision to spend the thick end of £5m on a reserve Turkish left back means that any sympathy for our engine room issues are in short supply.

To be fair to the manager, he’s not offered much excuses as to our bad form. After the team were jeered off against Dundee in the League Cup this week, he said he understood supporter frustration and that he and the players needed to do better. That’s a positive but, aside from injured players returning (Roofe might help and Lawrence definitely will), Gio is struggling to get any sort of tune out of his current players. It might only be October but ask a fan to name a player immune from criticism then they may struggle. Antonio Colak has scored goals and been an initial success but there are few others. If one or two players are off form, that can be blamed on those individuals, if the vast majority of the team are struggling, then there’s an obvious disconnect somewhere.

Should the manager be sacked then?

It’s somewhat of a cop out but I can’t see that happening right now even if it might be an inevitability. Rangers Football Club didn’t become Scotland’s most successful team by changing managers during difficult times – especially when they can point to a reasonable record results-wise over their first year in charge, including reaching a European final. As such, unless we go on a run of domestic losses before the World Cup break, it would be a big surprise to see us remove Gio before then (the final two CL results shouldn’t be factors).

That will allow the manager to regroup and give him another four weeks to instil his vision into the squad. Players returning from injury will help but he’ll have another five games – including Hibs, Aberdeen and Celtic – to navigate successfully before the transfer window opens again in January. Do we really think we’ll win all our games between now and Celtic at Ibrox? I doubt many fans have confidence in such a run but the preferred alternative in replacing the manager is equally difficult to predict.

As it stands there appears to be issues throughout the club. The Communications Director recently resigned, various scouts have gone and the Sporting Director has come under criticism for the status of the squad. No matter your opinion on these issues, it seems obvious that the squad will undergo further changes through the next 2-3 transfer windows. As such, do we believe Ross Wilson and Gio have the relationship to do that effectively on the limited budget we’re told we have? Or should someone else be brought in to make the kind of decisions will affect the club for the short and medium term? If so, who? Mick Beale has just turned down Wolves so will he really fancy the gamble of coming back to Ibrox? Which Scottish managers would we trust? Or can we find a left-field foreign appointment like Celtic to bring back excitement and success? Nothing is guaranteed regardless.

To conclude, fifteen hundred words in and I’m afraid I’m no closer to a definitive answer to the article’s question. There’s no doubt we’re in difficult times but we’ve all been through worse. Yet this still seems to be a key juncture in the club’s immediate future. I won’t pretend to know the solution and, I would suggest when a team is being booed from the park after a win, then a change will surely be inevitable but I also don’t think the van Bronckhorst story at Rangers is finished yet.

The next few weeks will tell us more. Let’s just hope the viewing in that time is better than we’ve seen in recent weeks. One thing is certain, it can’t be much worse.

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