It should have been a game changer for Scottish football. Paul Le Guen’s appointment as Rangers manager was heralded a watershed moment for the sport north of the border. He was, at the time, considered, one of the brightest young coaches in all of Europe, proving himself at the highest level with Lyon. But most significantly, he was a catalyst for the modernisation of the Scottish game.
But the Frenchman only lasted seven months at Rangers, becoming the club’s shortest serving manager as a dressing room revolt forced him out. His modernisation of the club was emphatically rejected with Scottish players too stuck in their ways to change.
Ten years later, Pedro Caixinha has taken up the mantel as Rangers’ first foreign manager since Le Guen. Just like in 2007 when the Frenchman arrived in Glasgow the club finds itself at something of a crossroads. Modernisation is needed and Rangers are counting on Caixinha to implement it.
Being foreign doesn’t automatically equate to being modern. But in Caixinha’s case there are some parallels to be drawn with Le Guen. There are no suggestions that the Portuguese is imposing double training sessions, like Le Guen did, or that anyone at the club has been asked to follow new dietary requirements. But from a tactical perspective, Caixinha offers something very different.
Nobody in the Hampden Park auditorium knew how to react when the Rangers boss started arranging empty glasses in front of him to illustrate the tactics he had tried to put in place for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic in April. Brendan Rodgers’ side came out on top on their way to a historic treble but Caixinha attempted to show where things has gone wrong.
— PA Dugout (@PAdugout) April 23, 2017
There is a certain anti-intellectualism in Scottish football and Caixinha goes against the grain of that. It’s a complex that sees Hearts manager Ian Cathro ridiculed for his use of modern methods and the likes of Kris Boyd, the striker who led the derision, championed. Scottish football must overcome this for its own good or face another generation left behind by the mainstream.
This is what Caixinha is up against. So it’s natural that he should look to the transfer market, particularly considering how Rangers’ squad was so badly exposed last season, finishing in third place behind Aberdeen despite boasting the second biggest budget in the country by quite some distance.
Caixinha has so far signed five new players this summer with all but one (Ryan Jack) arriving from foreign shores. It’s fair to say the majority of the players brought in at Ibrox so far are unknowns. This is where there is another comparison to be made with Le Guen. He too sought to impose a revolution by blitzing the transfer market.
Of course, the majority of Le Guen’s signings left almost as quickly as he did with Saša Papac the only one to make a success of himself in Glasgow. Caixinha must prove that his signings haven’t been made with the same scattergun approach; that there is an overarching plan which will in some way accommodate those that he has brought in.
It seems unlikely that Rangers will stop at eight signings with Scotland international Graham Dorrans reportedly close to a move to Ibrox. Attacker Jamie Walker is also thought to be on the radar of the Govan club,with Hearts admitting the player had communicated his desire to leave Tynecastle this summer.
READ MORE: SCOUTING RANGERS TARGET JAMIE WALKER
Those two signings would give Rangers a significant boost in creativity in the final third with the potential arrival of Walker a real coup, should it come to pass.
But none of this will matter if Rangers fail to close the gap on Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership next season or, perhaps more importantly in the wider scheme of things, if the Ibrox club fails to modernise itself.
Arsène Wenger set the precedent for this kind of thing. His methods were initially rejected upon taking over at Arsenal in the 1990s. However, the Frenchman soon got through to his players and led a complete overhaul of the north London club, ultimately changing English football as a whole. The Premier League in its current form was moulded by Wenger more than anyone else.
The hope all those years ago was that Le Guen would do a similar thing for the Scottish game. But that never materialised and the sport north of the border was left in the tedious cycle it has been repeating ever since.
Caixinha might not have arrived at Rangers with the same kind of reputation but he could come to represent a continuation of that process.