Steven Gerrard: How much have Rangers improved under manager?

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard has guided Rangers into the Europa League last 32

Steven Gerrard spoke of "building something special" at Rangers after extending his contract at the club. But how much has the Ibrox manager improved the team in his 19-month tenure.

Granted, the former Liverpool captain has not won any trophies, but there has been indisputable progress, with Thursday's confirmation of a Europa League last-32 place the latest step forward.

But where in particular have the advancements come? BBC Scotland looks at the numbers to find out.

Stronger league challenge

Despite his lack of experience, Gerrard undoubtedly hit the ground running at Rangers. This was most evident through the manner in which he managed to turn an inconsistent, tormented side in to quite comfortably the second-best team in the Scottish Premiership.

In the campaign prior to his appointment, the Ibrox side finished third, averaging two goals per game, but were hindered by the concession of 1.32 goals per game. Gerrard's arrival was followed by that of Allan McGregor, Connor Goldson, Jon Flanagan, Joe Worrall, Nikola Katic and Borna Barisic and subsequently Rangers' goals against dropped to 0.71 per match. This season, that has fallen even further to just 0.67.

That has, naturally, led to an upturn in results. In Gerrard's first season, Rangers' points per league game jumped from 1.84 to 2.05, allowing the Ibrox side to add eight points to their final tally and leapfrog Aberdeen into second. This season, that has taken a further leap forward to 2.53 points per match, which has the club sitting just two behind Celtic.

If Rangers can maintain that consistency, they'll finish on 96 points this term - a tally that would have won the Premiership title in four of the past five seasons. Celtic's projected tally currently sits at 101.

Picking up scalps in Europe

Following the Europa League debacle against Progres Niederkorn the season before under Pedro Caixinha, Gerrard quickly dispelled any concerns over his ability to qualify for European competitions.

Shkupi, Osijek, Maribor and Ufa were overcome to reach the group stages, before a creditable performance in a tough section comprising of Villarreal, Rapid Vienna and Spartak Moscow in which Rangers lost two of six games to finish third.

This season showed further improvement as St Joseph's, Progres, FC Midtjylland and Legia Warsaw were dispatched by a collective score of 20-3 in the qualifiers. Another gruelling group stage then awaited, but Gerrard oversaw impressive wins against Feyenoord and Porto, with a draw against Young Boys on Thursday enough to see his side into the knock-out rounds alongside Celtic.

Like the club's Premiership form, Gerrard has overseen Rangers' offensive and defensive records improve, while their win percentage in the competition has increased from 35% last season to 62% this time around. All while coming up against teams with budgets to match their reputations.

Room for improvement?

One area where Gerrard has yet to display significant improvement is in games against their domestic rivals. While Rangers should unquestionably have won the League Cup final against Celtic, it was a fourth defeat in six Old Firm games and the fourth trophy Celtic have lifted since the Englishman arrived at Ibrox. At some point, he'll be expected to turn that trend around.

Similarly, Aberdeen have avoided defeat by Gerrard's Rangers in seven of their 10 meetings. And while Derek McInnes' side are by no means genuine challengers to Rangers aspirations, they do continuously get in the way of them.

Last season, they knocked Rangers out of both domestic competitions and chipped five points off their final league tally. Despite a 5-0 drubbing at Ibrox in late September, Aberdeen once again popped up to take a point off Rangers in a 2-2 draw last week. A result that, perhaps crucially, gave Celtic a two-point lead at the top of the table.

Rangers have unquestionably improved under Gerrard and look on course to challenge for their first league title in nine years. However, his record against Celtic and Aberdeen suggests there is still plenty of room for improvement as his tenure enters its next stage.

Steven Gerrard's record

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