Twenty games in, twenty games won. Glasgow Rangers are unbeaten in the Scottish Division One and talk has already begun on whether they can emulate Arsenal’s 2003-2004 team by finishing the season unbeaten. It’s not a record that manager Ally McCoist wants to neither think about nor acknowledge but the further his team progresses this season on this winning run the harder it will be to ignore. Promotion is his one and only focus and rightly so. Records are records but they can be as damaging to a team’s form as they can be inspiring.
Comparing the two sides is like comparing apples to oranges; they are not the same nor pretend to be. The 2003-2004 Arsenal team, complete with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Denis Bergkamp were in a league of their own, entertaining millions as they stormed to the title. They faced tough challenges along the way, beating Liverpool at Anfield by two goals to one then following it up with a hard fought win over eventual runners up Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. There were some ropey moments for Arsene Wenger and his team including nerve racking wins at Manchester City, Tottenham and Southampton but the belief was there that they could end the season unbeaten. Arsenal finished the season on 90 points having won 26 of their 38 games, scoring 73 goals along the way. Their run would eventually stretch to 42 games before coming unstuck in controversial fashion to Manchester United at Old Trafford. By finishing the season without defeat, they became only the second team in history to do so, replicating Preston North End side of 1888. That Arsenal side is now recorded in the record books as one of the great sides in British football, something that Rangers could potentially join if their run continues until the end of the season.
Rangers however are not an exceptional team, far from it but a team none the less playing with heart. They want this title badly and the title after that as they yearn to be back at Scotland’s top table. They, like Arsenal are entertaining their fans as they go. Some games are harder fought than others but at the end all that matters is the three points won. Having scored 52 goals so far and conceded only six, Rangers are indeed on a roll. Led by captain Lee McCulloch and thanks to the goals of Jon Daly and Nicky Clark (between them they have scored 21 goals in all competitions) Rangers are in a commanding position and fear nobody in the league. Yes remarks will be made about the quality of opposition that they face but that would be doing a disservice to the teams Rangers have faced so far. What they may lack in flair and star players, the make up for in abundance with sheer grit and determination. They want to take the scalp of the once mighty Glasgow Rangers but are simply being outplayed. As the run continues, the harder the games will become with the determination from the opposite side building game by game as they look to be the team to end the winning run.
Defeat is inevitable for Rangers as it was for Arsenal. It might not be this month or even this season but eventually everyone loses. When that day comes Rangers fans will be hoping that it doesn’t matter as promotion has been secured and they are on track back towards the top flight. It will be at that point that Rangers will be able to look back at any records they may have set with pride and not regret. It’s been a long path back for the club through choppy waters and stormy seas. Records are meant to be broken but some things are more important than bragging rights. At least that’s the case for Rangers who are happy just to be here at all.
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