Le Guen Not At All Ready For The Premiership

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We know he’s already been sacked, but COS reader Craig had already put this together for “From The Terraces” beforehand – so just pretend it’s yesterday.

When Paul Le Guen left Lyon after winning 3 consecutive league titles, he was widely regarded as arguably the best young manager in the world. When he ended year long sabbatical to join Rangers, a few eyebrows were raised – especially given the sorry state of the Rangers team he was taking charge of. They had just finished 3rd in the SPL – their worst finish for 20 years, and had broken a club record by going 10 games without a win during the 2005/06 season. In addition, the club was still trying to recover financially from the wasteful management of Dick Advocaat from 1998-2001.

However, it is likely that the Frenchman saw the SPL as a shop window to the big Premiership clubs, as well as a chance to increase his reputation further by taking charge on the European stage. He may have also been looking to give his ego a boost by winning a few ‘easy’ trophies. But since joining in July 2006, his international reputation has plummeted, as Le Guen is in charge of what has been widely regarded as the worst Rangers team of the modern era.

The Frenchman made 2 major errors of judgement when he joined the Ibrox club. Firstly, he vastly underestimated the quality of the SPL and made signings which reflected this. Austria Vienna are hardly mentioned in the same breath as Barcelona, yet Le Guen signed THREE players from the Austrian champions. Libor Sionko, a back-up member of the Czech World Cup squad joined on a free and has performed reasonably but has hardly set the World alight in the SPL. Bosnian defender Sasa Papac joined for £450k but has struggled to get a regular first team slot. However, the most embarrassing of these signings was Slovakian forward Filip Sebo who Le Guen pursued for months before spending £1.8 million in August. Sebo has become a laughing stock in the media and a symbol of Rangers’ mediocrity – having managed only 2 goals in 17 appearances. The loan signings of Lee Martin and Philip Bardsley from Man Utd reserves were similarly unsuccessful – the former was ineffective and injury prone, the latter fell out with the French boss following a training ground incident. These transfer blunders didn’t endear the Frenchman to the Rangers supporters, and nor will they have impressed any prospective employers south of the border

The second mistake Le Guen made was failing to understand the British footballing culture. The game here is more about hard graft, rather than individual flair, yet the Frenchman decided upon a 4-2-3-1 formation which lends itself to more intelligent players rarely seen on these isles. His team has therefore been unable to cope with the physical approach favoured
by the teams towards the bottom of the SPL and Rangers have dropped a huge number of points to the bottom 5 clubs – especially at home, and suffered an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to St Johnstone in the CIS Cup. The club’s European form has been good, reaching the last-32 of the UEFA Cup which reinforces the idea that their style of play is the problem at home. Indeed, over the months, the formation changed to 4-3-3 then to a more conventional 4-4-2. His failure to appreciate the direct British style is certainly going to scare off any Premiership chairmen who had been interested in Le Guen as a future manager of their club.

He has also angered fans with his treatment of players since his arrival. Kris Boyd, the most natural goalscorer the club has had since Ally McCoist, has been left on the bench on many occasions because Le Guen doesn’t feel he works hard enough. Hard work or not, Boyd has scored almost a goal a game since joining from Kilmarnock, and finished as the club’s (and the league’s) top scorer last season despite only joining in January. He is also still top goalscorer this season with 13 in all competitions. Unsurprisingly, Rangers have struggled for goals when Boyd hasn’t been on the field, yet Le Guen has remained stubborn with the striker, leading some to believe he will move to the Premiership in the transfer window.

And following their recent struggles, you would think the manager would be trying his hardest to keep fans on his side – but instead he has stripped fans’ favourite Barry Ferguson of his captaincy, bafflingly giving the armband to squad player Gavin Rae. Scotland captain Ferguson is unlikely to play again for his beloved Rangers, and while his playing ability can be questioned by many non-Rangers fans, his commitment to the club cannot. It was chairman David Murray who commissioned the re-signing of Ferguson from Blackburn in 2005 – so Le Guen may also be angering the man who he definitely needs on his side.

Many people had believed that Le Guen was being groomed to take over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, but in just 6 months he is likely to have guaranteed that he will not manage another club from these isles. Le Guen should leave Rangers now to save his reputation in Europe, because it is possible he could still regain the success of his Lyon days in a more tactical league such as Serie A or La Liga and then maybe try the Premiership again when he’s learnt a harsh lesson or two.