What Michael Beale must do to get Rangers back in the title fight

Fix the tactical issues, improve star players and win a non-negotiable trophy… What Michael Beale must do to get Rangers back in the title fight

  • Rangers are already four points off Celtic in the race for the Premiership title
  • Beale should use the international break to improve several areas at the club
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off

Michael Beale turned 43 on Monday. It seems unlikely there was much celebration. Not with the noise from Ibrox still ringing in his ears.

Beale was roundly booed for his decision to substitute Kemar Roofe midway through the second half of Sunday’s dispiriting loss against a patched-up Celtic. Then, when the full-time whistle sounded, fury poured from the stands.

This wasn’t just a reaction to another Old Firm defeat. Its sheer intensity felt more like a collective loss of faith in a manager and his recently revamped squad. Nine games into the new season, Beale has entered very dangerous territory.

Rangers already sit four points behind Celtic after losing two of the opening four Premiership fixtures. They have been bundled out of the Champions League with a 7-3 aggregate defeat. Of the nine players signed this summer, only Jack Butland can claim to have made a decisively positive early impression.

Speaking post-match on Sunday, Beale insisted his side were still capable of getting an increasingly mutinous fanbase back onside.

Rangers manager Michael Beale has plenty to do following Rangers’ tough start to the season

Beale’s side have lost two of their first four Premiership games and are out of the Champions League

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But can the Ibrox boss really travel the winding road towards redemption in the eyes of the paying public? Or might the weekend anger actually mark the beginning of a long goodbye?

A next meeting with Celtic doesn’t arrive until December 30. Before then, he faces challenges in the Premiership, League Cup and Europa League.

Here, Mail Sport considers five key areas Beale must address to have a chance of turning things around.

Find a cohesive tactical plan

It has been difficult to square some recent performances with the pristine tactical shape Beale helped create in his days as Steven Gerrard’s first-team coach.

Frankly, Rangers have been a mess at times. Not only are supporters dismayed by the team’s approach, it looks to be confusing the players as well.

Sunday’s first half provided a telling snapshot. The disconnect between attack and midfield was obvious, resulting in a lack of effective pressing on a makeshift Celtic defence.

It was all too easy for Callum McGregor to shift into space and dictate play. A key battleground was completely lost. In last season’s 3-0 win over their rivals — who were admittedly already crowned champions — Beale’s side were on the front foot with Todd Cantwell dominating the advanced midfield zone.

it was too easy for Celtic’s Callum McGregor to dictate play in the Old Firm derby on Sunday

Rangers were second best to their rivals and already find themselves off the pace in the league

Todd Cantwell has been dropped and played out-of-position already this season under Beale

This term, Cantwell was dropped for the loss at Kilmarnock and was asked to play as a right-sided central midfielder on Sunday. Rangers are too often losing his influence.

Beale’s summer signings and pre-season programme suggested two strikers ahead of a No 10 was going to be his preferred set-up.

Since it backfired at Rugby Park, however, he has looked for different answers but been hampered by a shortage of natural wide options.

Beale needs to use the international break to develop more clarity about his set-up and ensure Rangers do not waste the strengths they have.

Beale should use the international break to develop more clarity in his tactical set-up

Show why Rangers spent all that money on Danilo (and the rest)

Beale’s recruitment issues are, of course, about much more than the use of one Brazilian striker. But Rangers pursued Danilo for months and spent £5.2million — if Dutch reports are accurate — to finally land him from Feyenoord.

All this time and money was invested in a player who has mostly sat on the bench. It doesn’t make sense.

True, Danilo was guilty of a terrible miss in the second leg against Servette last month. But Beale hasn’t started him in any of the five games since.

Arriving at Ibrox with a promising recent CV, the 24-year-old has therefore been unable to attain rhythm or properly show what he can offer.

Cyriel Dessers has instead been Beale’s first-choice centre-forward but can’t claim to have wowed supporters. Then there is Sam Lammers, who spurned the best chance for an equaliser when coming off the bench against Celtic. It’s all made for grim viewing up front.

Beale was given leeway to pursue hand-picked targets this summer. So far, aside from impressive goalkeeper Butland, the returns have been poor.

Only two summer additions started in outfield positions against Celtic. It might well have been one had Borna Barisic not failed a fitness test. If Beale doesn’t have faith in his newcomers then how can supporters?

New forward Danilo has struggled for consistency at the club and failed to show what he can offer the side

Win the League Cup

Aside from the necessity of not falling further behind Celtic in the Premiership, lifting the season’s first trophy is surely close to a non-negotiable.

An edgy 2-1 win over Morton wasn’t the best start but it set up a home quarter-final meeting with Livingston on September 27.

With Celtic already out of the competition, Rangers cannot afford to miss the opportunity to land this trophy for the first time since 2011. The consequences of failure could be dire for Beale, especially if his side are still off the pace in the title race.

While the League Cup is far from the club’s top priority, silverware always applies some salve to supporter emotions. The final falls on December 17 this year, meaning tangible achievement could be secured before Rangers head to Parkhead.

Rangers should win the League Cup with Celtic already out – they started their run with a 2-1 win over Morton last month

Summon improvement in individual players

Beale’s qualities on the training ground have been given numerous glowing testimonials. Summer signing Dujon Sterling even referred to him as a ‘genius’ for the way he transmits information that can help individual and collective aims.

The problem so far, though, is that we haven’t seen too much evidence of it in terms of Rangers’ first-team options.

Signing Cantwell felt like a masterstroke in January but the ex-Norwich playmaker has been moved around to damaging effect this term. Fans also harbour concerns about the recent progression of younger talents such as Nico Raskin in addition to the form of more experienced figures.

Much of this may well be solved by the tactical issue. Provide a properly functioning framework and individual talents could flourish.

Beale’s qualities on the training ground have been praised but they have not yet been shown on the pitch

Former manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst shepherded Calvin Bassey (pictured) from a raw youngster to a £20million player

As well as leading Rangers to the Europa League final, winning the Scottish Cup and qualifying for the Champions League, the way Giovanni van Bronckhorst shepherded Calvin Bassey from raw youngster into a £20million asset was a significant plus point for the Dutchman.

All of that taken together still wasn’t enough to save him when domestic form nosedived alongside European embarrassment. Beale currently lacks comparable credit in the bank.

Retain the faith of an altered Ibrox hierarchy

This may sound blindingly obvious. However, it’s not just the Rangers squad that has been overhauled since Beale took charge last November.

The Rangers set-up off-the-field has been overhauled since Beale’s appointment last year

John Bennett has stepped up from vice-chairman to chairman, replacing Douglas Park. Stewart Robertson has gone. James Bisgrove has taken over as chief executive. The position of sporting director lies vacant after Ross Wilson’s move to Nottingham Forest.

Under Bennett and Bisgrove, a different mood of dynamism exists within the club. As shown by some of the changes at executive level, they are not afraid to be ruthless if they believe it is in Rangers’ best interests.

The new hierarchy got behind Beale in the summer, sanctioning a net spend understood to be in the region of £5million. They did their bit. But they cannot wait indefinitely to see some rewards.

Beale needs to at least offer signs of progression, rather than the current, painful regression. And it has to happen soon.


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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