Philippe Clement is starting at ground zero at Ibrox. He defined the injury situation as the foundations of the house being ‘clearly not good’. The solutions are, for now, being kept in the building by the Belgian.

There have been stages of the season where Clement has spent more time talking about those who are not fit to play rather than those who were able to pull on their boots. Just weeks into his tenure, he spoke about the selection 'puzzle' being the worst he had ever encountered and he would go on to, somehow, guide his depleted squad to European progression and domestic achievement. In the end, it has caught up with Rangers. The table never lies, after all.

The Premiership standings are there in black and white. The numbers relating to the match minutes played this term are just as depressing and concerning to read for Clement and he is some way from the target of 90 percent availability across the group that he has worked around at his previous clubs. If those statistics cannot be addressed, Rangers simply have no chance of coming out on top of the table that matters most.

Asked about the gap between his side and Celtic in the aftermath of the Old Firm defeat on Saturday, Clement insisted there was none, as long as both teams were fully fit. Minutes later in the same press conference, he rhymed off the list of ten players who were injured, plus the suspended John Lundstram, ahead of the visit of Dundee.

“Every team in the world, if you have nine players who are possibly starting eleven players who are not available, for every team in the world it is a difficult,” Clement said on the eve of the penultimate Premiership fixture, which his side would go on to win comfortably after coming from two goals down at Ibrox. “I hear the same thing if one or two players of the Celtic team were missing during the season, that it was such a massive thing that they were back. We had nine. We have for tomorrow eleven that are missing. That is for me a major thing that we need to change for next season that these things don’t happen. It is the foundation of the house that we need to make.”

Of the nine players that Michael Beale recruited last season, only two – Jack Butland and Cyriel Dessers – have been named in every one of the 57 match squads over the course of the campaign. Butland has been an ever-present presence in the Premiership and has only watched one fixture overall after sitting out the Scottish Cup win at Dumbarton. For all the questions and concerns over the contribution and quality of Dessers, his robustness and reliability in selection terms have been hugely important for Rangers, especially given the plethora of problems that Rangers have had from middle to front.

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Dessers is one of only six players to have more than 2000 league minutes under his belt this term. Celtic by contrast, have had nine. When you take Butland out of the equation, only two – captain James Tavernier and John Lundstram – have broken the 3000-minute barrier. Celtic by contrast have had five players break that barrier. Connor Goldson will fall just short of that figure after form and fitness issues, while John Souttar has been one of the success stories of the season in that regard after putting his own injury nightmares behind him, appearing in 51 squads and 41 matches across all competitions.

Minutes played in the Scottish Premiership by Rangers players

The exploits of Tavernier and Lundstram in purely physical terms are remarkable, with both also playing a full quota – just shy of 800 – of minutes in the Europa League. If Rangers had a core of players with their consistency of selection, Clement’s side would undoubtedly have had a greater chance of success this season. Going forward, Clement needs more stalwarts and the physical profile of potential recruits will form a key part of the process this summer.

Minutes played in the Scottish Premiership by Celtic players

Of the nine players Rangers signed last summer, only three have played more than 40 percent of league minutes this campaign.

Similarly of, the seven players Rangers signed throughout 2022/23 only three have played more than 40 percent of league minutes this campaign.

Four of the Beale buys have featured in less than a third of Premiership minutes. Jose Cifuentes played the equivalent of just seven full matches before leaving the club at the midway point of the campaign, while Kieran Dowell has been restricted to just 15 appearances following his arrival from Norwich as his season has been beset by injuries. In the case of Sam Lammers, it was his technical attributes that curtailed his impact and Rangers can only hope to recoup as much of the £3.5million fee as possible this time around.

The loss of Danilo has perhaps been the biggest blow of all for Clement. The Brazilian, a £6million arrival from Feyenoord, scored twice for Clement before the serious knee injury sustained at Tynecastle ended his term. When Oscar Cortes was ruled out just weeks after putting pen-to-paper, it almost summed up Clement’s fortunes.

The Ibrox boss had already seen Abdallah Sima suffer a setback while on duty with Senegal at the African Cup of Nations. Losing his contribution, he has delivered 16 goals from 38 outings, undermined Rangers. A return for Hampden would be most welcome, as would a place for Dujon Sterling, who will surpass 1400 league minutes if he plays more than a handful against the Jambos. The status of Leon Balogun, who has played in half of the matches he has been named in the squad for, is just as important now that Clement has one eye on the national stadium. Rabbi Matondo has missed 22 games but is hoped he will be fit to feature in the final as he seeks to add to his six goals, the best of which was his Old Firm equaliser that gave Rangers a hope that quickly evaporated.

Clement has not gone as far as using the injury crisis as an excuse for how this season has unfolded. Yet the situation must be taken into account as a mitigating circumstance, and it does go some way to explaining how Rangers have unravelled at the business end of the campaign. Todd Cantwell was able to get back up to speed relatively quickly after his absence, but Nicolas Raskin has never really found his rhythm this season and too many have had stop-start terms. As a result, Rangers have lacked cohesion at times as individual issues have come with collective costs.

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Clement’s side had enough quality on the park and in reserve to win the matches with Motherwell, Ross County and Dundee that hampered them so badly and those failures are on those that were selected. The Old Firm fixtures have been entered into with one hand tied behind their back and Celtic have landed the knockout blows as a result. It is clear, then, what needs to change next term and a support that have been scunnered with the ongoing injury shambles need to see a plan of action.

There is a narrative around some players that is hard to change. Tom Lawrence and Ridvan Yilmaz, for example, are seen as injury-prone after making 32 and 31 appearances respectively, while the limited impact of the likes of Kemar Roofe and Ryan Jack – with a combined Premiership game time of just over 1000 minutes – has frustrated a support that has hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of talent sitting beside it in the stands every week.

On the day that he was unveiled at Ibrox, Clement outlined the four pillars – technical, tactical, mental and physical - that he would build his Rangers side around. The last one of those will not be achieved by rolling back the years and running players up and down the dunes at Gullane but there will be a focus on fitness when Rangers head for a European training camp in July. Before then, each player, old and new, will have their own schedules to work through over the break. Rangers must hit the ground running in every regard.

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There was an interesting moment towards the end of Clement’s pre-match press conference this week. When asked what lessons he will take forward from this season into the next one, Clement’s answer was shorter than many he had previously given. It tailed off and hung in the air.

“There are sometimes small decisions, but, for sure, the injuries story,” Clement said. “Maybe it was better not to wait until the end of the season to make decisions around that, but you also give chances to people.”

When the time comes to revisit the subject, perhaps Clement will go into detail about who those chances were given to and why they weren’t taken. His first term at Ibrox will have opened his eyes and shaped his thinking. In so many ways, Clement’s second season must be a very different one.