Philippe Clement must prove he is more than just a Rangers long ball merchant or face serious questions - Keith Jackson

They'll be feeling pretty bruised and beaten up. And probably a bit sorry for themselves.

They may even believe they can make up for losing the league title by beating Celtic to the Scottish Cup at Hampden in less than a fortnight’s time without realising the dangerous levels of their own delusion. Who knows? Some of them may even be clinging to the misplaced belief that Brendan Rodgers and his players might collapse in spectacular fashion by failing to take a single point from their final two top flight fixtures against Kilmarnock and St Mirren.

But even if they are content to keep kidding themselves on, the truth of the matter is that they are fooling no-one. This Rangers side has become so consistently untrustworthy over the years that it would probably still lose out on goal difference even if Celtic did fail to find the net in either of their remaining matches. Which, of course, they will not. Chances are Philippe Clement will have to settle for another second prize at the national stadium on May 25, when Rangers bring the curtain down on a failed campaign with one final Old Firm showdown. But the outcome of that final is really neither here nor there where the big picture is concerned.

On the contrary, even if they do salvage a second trophy at Hampden, they’ll still head into the summer as the close-but-no-cigar brigade of the Scottish game. Perennial nearly men but almost always not quite near enough. And seldom has this lack of character and conviction appeared so glaringly obvious as it did on Saturday when they obediently capitulated at the home of a rival who more than has their measure.

When they were presented with one last redemption shot, they had neither the wherewithal nor the courage required to reach out and grab it. Instead, they fulfilled the familiar role of being sayers to Celtic’s doers with a performance that was no more than a passive, token effort.

If they want to know what a ‘doer’ looks like then they should study the tape and pay close attention to the part played by the man wearing Celtic’s armband. Having stood back and allowed Callum McGregor to dominate them once again, they shouldn’t really need to examine the video evidence.

But if they do take another look they will see a man who perfectly epitomises the difference between these two sides. McGregor is the type of leader who demands the ball and then looks to do something meaningful with it. His approach is simple, ‘Give it to me, I’ll make something happen!’.

By contrast, Rangers have a squad festooned with shoulder shruggers whose body language screams, ‘Can’t someone else do it?’. Celtic’s opening goal was a case in point. It was McGregor who took it upon himself to surge forward down the right flank, leaving Tom Lawrence in his slipstream.

As he made his move, John Lundstram pointed a finger while urging Lawrence to match McGregor’s run.

Lundstram, however, completely ignored Matt O’Riley darting to the edge of the box to collect McGregor’s precision cut back and then his shoulders slumped as the Danish international picked his spot in the back of Jack Butland’s net.

If all this all caught Lundstram by surprise then he was perhaps the only one because the breakthrough could be seen coming from a mile off. In the five or ten minutes which led up to it, Rangers players were disengaging from their responsibilities all over the pitch. Rather than match Celtic’s endeavour man for man, they sat off and allowed the hosts to take complete control of the contest.

Were it not for the brilliance of Butland in goal then the champions would have been in front long before O’Riley put them there, ten minutes before the break. Less than three minutes later Lundstram lapsed again, losing Reo Hatate as Celtic countered down the left flank.

James Tavernier should have helped his team out by doing something to shut down Diazen Maeda but the very sight of this Japanese speedball tends to scramble the senses of the Rangers skipper. Tavernier did little more than invite the winger to fire a cross into the Rangers box. Having belatedly rushed into the scene Lundstram failed to realise that Hatate had checked out and, in his befuddlement, he succeeded in poking the ball into the back of his own net.

And all this would be compounded with the brainless, potentially leg breaking lunge on Alistair Johnston which would see the Scouser correctly red carded on the stroke of half time, albeit after a lengthy VAR check. This came at a moment when Rangers were finally showing signs of life in this contest - having pulled one back with a Cyriel Dessers header from close range.

Dessers is another who promises much while delivering little. Yes, he bagged his first ever Old Firm goal but he plodded around the Parkhead pitch for most of the rest of the match as if it was all a bit too much like hard work. Time after time he allowed Celtic’s centre halves to move the ball around him without ever applying any significant pressure. His work off the ball was lazy, lacklustre and lamentably half hearted.

The biggest concern of all for the beleaguered Rangers hierarchy is that either Clement failed to identify these deficiencies, or he was unable to do anything to rectify them. During this malaise Celtic missed a penalty - could have been awarded with another - while Maeda netted twice only to be denied on both occasions by the linesman’s flag.

So the slender margin of Celtic’s victory, along with a nervy error strewn closing half hour from the home team, should not mask Rangers’ wide ranging ineptitudes. It says everything that, with so much on the line, they could muster only one effort on target in the entire contest.

And Clement has to take his share of the blame for that even if he has already concluded that a brutal squad rebuild is the only way of enhancing his own job security over the summer. Six months in, he is still working with the odds and ends that Michael Beale left behind. He may have squeezed marginally more out of them than the last man but there is no sign of any defined style to the way he’s gone about.

Clement will have to prove that he’s a great deal more than just a long ball merchant once he’s recruited his own men or else serious questions will be asked by his superiors. They may already be struggling to comprehend why the man in charge has placed so much faith in the likes of Fabio Silva, Lundstram and Dessers but so little in the likes of Todd Cantwell and Nicolas Raskin.

One way or another, Clement may soon have some serious explaining to do.