RANGERS have been consistently inconsistent this season. Once one matter is resolved, it stands to reason that the other will follow.

Results have been earned more often than not, but there should come a time when a settled team is able to move through the gears and build the kind of run which marks champions apart from challengers.

Steven Gerrard can point to an array of excuses – such as form, injuries, suspensions and Covid – that have contributed to Rangers’ issues in the opening months of their title defence.

One factor is more important than all of those combined, of course. Rangers are where they want to be and are still the ones to catch in the Premiership.

That fact is partly down to the mistakes of those that are seeking to topple them and Rangers’ rivals haven’t been able to capitalise on the stumbles that Gerrard’s side have made.

It shouldn't be allowed to mask the deficiencies and concerns, though. Even if no comparison to last term is made, Rangers haven't fulfilled their potential thus far and criticisms over performances - both individually and collectively - have been commonplace in recent weeks.

Two league fixtures – away to Dundee United and at home to Motherwell – haven’t been won but Rangers still enjoy a six point advantage over Celtic after eight games.

Hibernian are now four adrift following their defeat at Ibrox on Sunday, while Hearts – who are next up after the international break – are the only unbeaten side in the division.

That victory over Hibernian was Rangers’ 16th competitive outing this term and Gerrard has, either through choice or necessity, fielded 13 different combinations in the final third of the pitch.

Given the upheaval on a game-to-game basis, it should come as no surprise that Rangers haven’t been able to find their rhythm in an attacking sense thus far and Gerrard is still searching for the right formula at present.

That inability to utilise the same partnerships has not been limited to the forward areas, of course, and there have been switches across the side as unfamiliar line-ups have been fielded at home and abroad.

There were swathes of last season where the team almost picked itself and there were few spots up for grabs as a relentless Rangers powered their way to the title and an unbeaten league campaign.

Gerrard has not had that luxury this time out, however, and it is only Steven Davis that has been available for selection in every game thus far. At 36, even Davis must sit one out every now and then.

The situation would be more difficult for Gerrard if he was attempting to introduce a handful of new signings into a squad or implement a refreshed style of play, but Rangers are not in need of an overhaul in terms of personnel or approach.

Gerrard stated in the aftermath of the 2-1 win over Hibernian – earned thanks to goals from Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos – that the style was more like how he wanted it to look from Rangers’ perspective.

It was, Gerrard said, the game he had enjoyed the most this season for that very reason as he saw signs that Rangers were beginning to discover their touch as an attacking force.

It was no surprise that the goals came when Rangers had their two most likely scorers on the park together and the champions carry more of a threat when Morelos, who has five goals this term, and Roofe, who took his tally to six on Sunday, are paired in attack.

Morelos and Roofe didn’t start together until the Old Firm win over Celtic and they were once again joined by Ryan Kent for the victory away to St Johnstone the following week in one of the few occasions where Gerrard hasn’t altered his attack.

Gerrard has stressed that he doesn’t want to overwork and ask too much of his players this season, and that is why he has assembled a squad that is as deep in terms of numbers.

He needs others to come to the fore with their own statistics, however, if Rangers are to avoid being over-reliant on Morelos and Roofe for the majority of their goals.

Captain James Tavernier, for example, has just one to his credit this term. Ianis Hagi, Joe Aribo and Scott Wright all have two, but Fashion Sakala has scored only once since arriving at Ibrox and Ryan Kent didn’t find the net before sustaining the injury that still keeps him out of action.

The lack of cutting edge will be as surprising as it is perplexing for supporters that know how effective each player can be individually, and how impressively they can combine as a unit.

Rangers have been prone to overplaying at times this term and their movement and passing has not been incisive enough. A hesitancy to shoot from distance could be viewed as a reluctance to take on responsibility.

The challenge of packed defences and stuffy opposition is nothing new, yet Rangers haven’t looked as capable of brushing teams aside as they did during their stroll to the silverware last season.

The return of Kent after the latest league hiatus will give Gerrard another weapon in his armoury, but the winger has to quickly play his way into form after a somewhat lacklustre start to the campaign.

Aribo and Hagi are more than capable of stepping it up, but the jury remains out on Wright and he hasn’t made the most of Kent’s absence. In Sakala, Gerrard has a raw talent and one that will take time to polish into the finished article.

The men and the messages have not changed significantly from one season to the next and the jerseys are there to be claimed by those that must stand up and be counted in front of goal.

The chopping and changing has undoubtedly hindered Rangers but the time will come for Gerrard to, more often than not, pick what he deems as his strongest side and demand them to combine in the manner expected.

Rangers remain ahead on the road to the Premiership title and the fact that they still have levels to find will be as heartening as the position that they find themselves in at present.

Consistency of selection should lead to repetitiveness in terms of results and performances. The challenge then for Rangers will be to prove their champions credentials once again.