YOU are never more than a couple of games away from a crisis as Rangers manager. Pedro Caixinha seems to be on the brink every 90 minutes.
The questions over his future last week were premature but they could soon become more prevalent if progress, and results, aren’t forthcoming sooner rather than later.
It would have taken a performance and a defeat even worse than the 5-1 loss to Celtic in April for the Light Blues board to push the panic button on Saturday evening. While many observers fancied Brendan Rodgers’ side to pile on the pressure, there was little chance that Caixinha would then pay the ultimate price.
In terms of the Premiership standings, the Old Firm defeat wasn’t that costly for Rangers. The same can’t be said for the manager, though.
The points that were lost can still be made up over the course of the campaign, but the outcome was another black mark on Caixinha’s record. He can’t afford many more.
Seven games into the new Premiership campaign, Rangers are already eight points adrift of Celtic and seemingly powerless to prevent Rodgers leading his side to a seventh successive league title.
But it is not their Old Firm rivals that are Rangers’ main concern at present. In some regards, it is not even Aberdeen, with whom they will again battle to be best of the rest this term.
The focus from Caixinha has to be on his side and finding ways to cure the ills that have plagued their campaign so far, and that could derail their attempts to achieve their aims of second spot and some silverware in the coming months.
Celtic are not back on Caixinha’s radar until the final week of the year but the run of fixtures between now and then are far from straightforward for Rangers.
It includes away matches at Hamilton and St Johnstone before the Betfred Cup semi-final with Motherwell. A trip to Hearts will be a stern test, while the two matches in four days against Aberdeen could be decisive for Rangers and defining for Caixinha before he takes his side to Easter Road to kick-off the festive schedule.
Supporters had every right to look at the first six league outings leading into the meeting with Celtic and expect the Gers to be sitting with maximum points. The reality is somewhat different, though, and leaves Caixinha under mounting pressure.
The Portuguese has yet to win three Premiership matches on the spin since he arrived at Ibrox six months ago, so there is little to suggest that his side are capable of putting together the kind of run that could take them clear of the Dons.
Caixinha is going into every match at present with questions of ‘what if?’ surrounding him from many quarters.
He needs to put together six, seven, eight, nine wins back-to-back to give himself a shield for when the next points are dropped and the flak starts flying once again. That would point to progress and provide him with a bit of breathing space.
But it is an ambition that looks beyond a team that struggles to combine two 45 minute performances at present, never mind rack up the wins over a prolonged spell.
Rangers remain consistently inconsistent and even the matches that have been won – against Motherwell, Ross County and Dundee – haven’t been smooth sailing. Now, the waters are becoming increasingly choppy for Caixinha.
Having been given the backing of the Light Blues hierarchy, to the tune of around £8million, in the summer, the 46-year-old must start repaying their faith with considerable interest.
He will be given time, for now, but as patience wears out on the terraces there will come a point where it becomes thin in the Director’s Box if Rangers’ fortunes don’t improve.
This is Caixinha’s side and the problems with it are his to solve. If he doesn’t find the answers, someone else will be asked the questions.
It is not a healthy situation for a manager to be in when there is conjecture around his position week after week and results are the only thing that will silence the critics and win over the doubters.
The years without success have made supporters increasingly desperate for the glory days to return and, after seeing Mark Warburton fail to deliver, it is on Caixinha’s shoulders that the burden now rests. They want him to do well, but doubt whether he can.
He is friendly and personable yet has a fiery streak. He is passionate about the game and has a determination to succeed, but understanding the job and doing the job are very different things at Ibrox.
The fans can take to Caixinha the man, but have still to be convinced of Caixinha the manager as he prepares for a run of fixtures that will shape Rangers’ season and define his Ibrox career.
The tipping point hasn’t yet arrived for Caixinha and he will hope that time proves a healer as he attempts to get more out of the likes of Fabio Cardoso, Carlos Pena and Eduardo Herrera.
It became evident fairly early on last season that Warburton wouldn’t see the summer at Ibrox and Rangers can’t afford to fall into a similar situation this time out. The result weren’t good enough to show real signs of improvement, but they weren’t bad enough to leave the board with no option but to sack their manager as Rangers stumbled through the season.
There is still time for Caixinha to avoid the same fate. Time is of the essence, though.
Source : HeraldScotland