'Little details' cause Rangers to start rebuild with regrets

Whether Rangers won the Scottish Cup or not, there was a rebuild coming this summer. Manager Philippe Clement said so.

Even if they had kept their nerve and got over their line in the Premiership, there big changes were due at Ibrox.

What will sting for Rangers is they were, at various stages in the league and at Hampden, in control of their own destiny.

On Saturday, they turned in their best Old Firm display of the season, and still it was not enough to slip to a fourth defeat against Celtic in this campaign.

A League Cup triumph in December was hard won, but it does not stop Rangers heading for their holidays with regrets.

The derbies this term have been a tale of woe for the blue half of Glasgow, and in similar fashion too, until the Hampden showpiece.

Concede the first and - on three occasions - second goal and then fight back, only to fall short anyway.

Those games were won and lost in midfield, where Callum McGregor, Matt O'Riley, and Reo Hatate controlled the game for Celtic.

It was such a feature of these games that Clement, having brilliantly picked up the pieces from Michael Beale's sacking, was being questioned.

At Hampden he got it right. John Lundstram, back from suspension after his red in the decisive league derby, was left on the bench for the first time.

Mohamed Diomande played alongside Nicolas Raskin and midfield, with Todd Cantwell in front.

Rather than going man-for-man across the pitch, they blocked the passes through to O'Riley and the rest.

It worked. Until it didn't.

"That we didn't score and Celtic scored, I think that was the only difference," Clement told BBC Scotland.

"My players played a brave game, they played a good tactical game, with and without the ball. Much improved from the last Old Firms.

"We had three times more shots on target than Celtic today. It's about decision-making and quality also, to finish off the actions. We're going to work hard on that."

'It's a mentality thing'

If Rangers are to overhaul Celtic next season, as will be the demand, what is missing?

Broadly the diagnosis falls into two camps.

The first is Rangers don't have a strong enough mentality compared to the serial winners across the city who have won 12 of the last 13 league titles. Captain Callum McGregor has not lost in seven finals.

Clement has always refuted that suggestion, but Rangers defender Leon Balogun had an interesting take.

"I think the edge they had over us this season was in confidence," he said. "They turned up and delivered when they needed to and that's where we fell short.

"If we reflect this season, it started really tough, then we had a great comeback. But results count and the main target was not achieved and today is another blow."

Former Celtic captain Scott Brown is not a man many Rangers people will take heed of, but he was clear about what the difference was at Hampden.

And he knows a thing or two about getting over the line in Scottish football.

"It's a mentality thing," he told BBC Scotland. "Celtic have got that mentality to continuously win. Rangers have not got that mentality. That's the difference.

"They come here and play well but just can't get it over the line. Celtic get it over the line, they know how to do it."

'We're going to build a new team'

The other diagnosis is Rangers simply do not have the same quality of players. Mentality as well as ability comes into that.

Injuries to key players has certainly not helped Clement's cause. But even the tactics in Saturday's final, while effective, were more about shutting down Celtic.

Rangers want to be in a position to have Celtic worry about their threats.

"The game was on a knife-edge, it's the little details," former Rangers midfielder Steven Davis said on Sportscene.

"I thought Rangers were the better side in that second half but they couldn't trouble Joe Hart."

It all points to a big turnover come the summer, but the same questions will linger. Who exactly will go? And how much money is there to replace them?

And, Rangers do not operate in a vaccuum. Celtic, with Champions League money behind them, will look to kick on too.

It means Clement and new sporting director Nils Koppen have a massive few months ahead of them.

"The mentality is there, the hard work is there, the structure is there and now we need to build on this," the Belgian added.

"We have quite a few players leaving, players who are out of contract, players getting older, players who have had a lot of injuries.

"So we're going to renew the squad and get experience, but also a talented squad to build a new team."

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