Faults, flaws and the glaringly obvious: Rangers in 2009.

Last updated : 17 March 2009 By Devils and Dust
We've now had four games against Celtic this season and the 4-2 battering we handed out at the beginning of the season is starting to look like a previous anomaly, when we gave a decent O'Neill team a 5-1 pasting at Ibrox on Tore Andre Flo's debut.

I watched Celtic carefully at Hampden and despite a poor playing surface they attempted to pass the ball out from the back, favouring short passes and relying on midfield movement away from our markers to create openings. Crucially, they have midfield players prepared to make runs, with even a plodding carthorse like Hartley occasionally getting down the right flank. I saw very few aimless punts forward other than when they were clearing their lines and if they had more than two decent players (Nakamura and the Scot who thinks he's Irish) they'd be miles ahead of us. Ultimately, their supremacy rests on being much better organised than us but as a double whammy we also let ourselves down badly with faults that any decent coach would cure.

The worst fault is one which has been a problem for Smith's teams for decades, in that our distribution from the back, Bougherra apart, is relentlessly atrocious. It used to be just slow, now it's slow and poor.

We play two centre backs at full back and it shows, because we pose no attacking threat down the wing on either side and as a result teams can block the middle of the park up with hammer-throwers.

One reason opposing teams don't press the ball when either Weir or Broadfoot have it is because they know that an aimless aerial hoof will inevitably follow. As a deliberate, obvious tactic they and McGregor aim it left, usually aiming for Lafferty or McCulloch to win a header - yet we don't aim to get our midfield players round that area to take advantage of headers won, loose ball or knockdowns.

Walter Smith insists on playing a misfiring unpopular striker up front, occasionally paired with Boyd, both of them with a first touch that makes Gordon Durie look Brazilian. Added to that, our midfield players rarely play the ball into channels for Miller, when all he's got going for him is pace.

For reasons I can't even begin to explain we have three ball playing midfielders who can't play together. Ferguson plays regardless of whether he's in form, and it looks like both Mendes and Davis are being dragged back to SPL level. Serious question: how can a Premiership quality midfield trio look so ineffective and leaden footed?

I've snapped with Smith this season because it is obvious that the Emperor has no clothes. I've now fallen into line and believe him to be a dinosaur incapable of adapting to the modern game or changing things for the better, because I've seen no evidence to the contrary. Smith is conservative, small-minded and feart.

I see no visible signs of coaching, evidenced by our free kicks or corners. I see no sign there's any pattern to our play, other than getting 10 men in our own box when the opposition has a set piece. Who, for example, is our free kick specialist? Where's our version of Nakamura, or our long throw guy? I've seen Mendes, Ferguson and Davis take frees with nothing to choose between any of them on the rare occasion we don't slip it sideways to Boyd who invariably thrashes it into the nearest defender.

I consider this current horror show to be worse than the period when McLeish had overstayed his welcome - at least then Celtic had a half decent side to excuse our failure. Nowadays, Rangers find themselves mired in second best, behind a side which at best is mediocre, yet is in pole position to win a fourth consecutive title.

The light at the end of the tunnel now appears to be a train coming towards us at high speed and make no mistake, Rangers are the authors of their own destiny.