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Rangers are in good form following the departure of Pedro Caixinha. Since the Portuguese manager left, they have won both of their Scottish Premiership fixtures, defeating Hearts 3-1 away and Partick Thistle 3-0 at home.
Those results mean they remain three points behind second-placed Aberdeen and six off of league leaders Celtic, with some arguing the case for temporary boss Graeme Murty to be given the job on a full-time basis.
There is a case for the former Reading player, whose official title is head coach of the Rangers development squad, however there is a feeling the club needs a proven manager to take them back into serious title contention.
The latest big name to be linked to the role is Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The 42-year-old was one of the first signings made by his compatriot Dick Advocaat as the Scottish side underwent a Dutch revolution in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Others to arrive in what was an exciting era included Arthur Numan, Michael Mols, Fernando Ricksen and Ronald de Boer.
Currently in charge of Feyenoord, the man known affectionately as ‘Gio’ has made a promising start to his managerial career. In his first season with the Rotterdam outfit, he led them to the KNVB Cup. And in his second campaign he led them to their first Eredivisie title in 18 years.
Over the last few days there have been reports that he may soon return to Rangers, while oddsmakers have installed him as the second favourite – behind Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes – for the manager’s job at Ibrox.
Leaving Feyenoord would – temporarily at least – mean saying goodbye to European football. But the prospect of rejuvenating a sleeping giant with a significant transfer budget may be enough to entice van Bronckhorst. And Rangers would be wise to go all out to hire the Dutchman.
VAN BRONCKHORST’S MANAGEMENT STYLE
Van Bronckhorst was a team-mate of Ray Parlour’s at Arsenal, and the former England midfielder believes he would be a good appointment for Rangers.
“As a player he was a very intelligent guy,” he said. “He understood the football, the way you had to play. You could always see him going into coaching…He always had something to say when we had meetings, even if he wasn't playing.
“I don't think they (Rangers) would go far wrong with Giovanni…He knows Rangers, he's played for Rangers. When he came to Arsenal he had high praise [for] Rangers, he said it was a great club, well run, fantastic people, and I'm sure if he got the opportunity that could be a really good job.”
Evidently, van Bronckhorst was destined for coaching. And, after serving as assistant manager at Feyenoord, he was made manager when Fred Rutten departed in 2015. His first two years in the job have been hugely successful, allowing him to establish himself as one of the most intriguing young managers on the continent.
Behind the silverware won is a management style based on maximising the talent available. The Dutchman has been praised for his ability to foster harmony within the squad while at the same time being unafraid to make big decisions – at one point he dropped club legend Dirk Kuyt because he felt the team could function better without the forward.
Van Bronckhorst has also shown himself to be an astute leader, managing a young Feyenoord squad. He brought right-back Rick Karsdorp into the starting line-up on a more consistent basis, while he also brought the best out of Tonny Vilhena. Thanks to his man management, the former is now with Italian side Roma while the latter is a regular call-up to the Dutch national team.
One of the issues Caixinha had with Rangers was the poor relationship he had with his own players. He was brave in his decision-making, even dropping veteran Kenny Miller, but was unable to gain the respect of his squad in the process.
Van Bronckhorst would be unlikely to encounter similar difficulties. As a Rangers legend he wouldn’t be loaded with the burden of needing to prove his credentials that his Portuguese predecessor suffered. And, on the basis of his work with Feyenoord, he would be able to build a strong unit from the individuals at his disposal.
WOULD HIS TACTICS TRANSLATE?
In contrast to many of his more esteemed compatriots, van Bronckhorst is a reactive manager. He is willing to vary his strategy in accordance with the opponent or situation at hand, and has shown a proclivity for switching systems.
His shape of preference is the 4-3-3, though he has in the past utilised a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2. This flexibility is something Caixinha was never truly able to instil at Rangers, and his side were worse off for it.
Defensively, van Bronckhorst likes to keep a relatively high back line, ensuring compactness and creating the necessary foundations for a midfield press. There is also a focus on retention of the shape, particularly when up against opponents with effective possession games.
In an attacking sense, he focuses on the wings and half-spaces to build moves. The deep-lying midfielder will often drop back in the right channel, allowing the right-back to push forward and attack the flank.
This particular movement would suit Rangers; in Ryan Jack they have a defensive midfielder who is comfortable operating at right-back, while in James Tavernier they have an extremely forward-thinking right-back who is at his best in the opposition half.
Van Bronckhorst’s wingers are expected to cut in and attack the opponent’s defensive line, while the full-backs provide width. Often these players will overload and combine in wider areas, dragging the defence to one side before switching play to the other wing to take advantage of the space available there.
Considering the above, he would likely make good use of Daniel Candeias, a fast winger who is capable of taking on and beating his marker. He would also bring the best out of diminutive central midfielder Jason Holt, hard-working striker Alfredo Morelos and proactive goalkeeper Wes Foderingham.
Rangers don’t need an idealist. They need a practical manager who offers tactical clarity, an ability to adjust and good man management. In van Bronckhorst they would get all of that and more.