The more things change the more they stay the same. How true is that statement after Celtic's 2-1 win over Rangers on Saturday ensured another league title was polished and prepared to travel East.

Another new manager trying to implement another new collective idea, using a squad built with others’ visions in mind. Unable to get over the finish line at this venue and in this fixture. Yesterday’s Rangers performance would’ve been at home in any of the past three seasons away at Parkhead - and therein lies the problem.

The Ibrox side have now gone through two entire league and cup seasons without a win of any meaning in this fixture - the 3-0 reverse last May came after the title had been won. The last big moment in this fixture arrived under Giovanni van Bronckhorst at Hampden in April 2022 when Scott Arfield sealed an extra-time win. The last big moment in the league was a Fil Helander header, converted during the reign of Steven Gerrard. Celtic have scored first in 11 of the last 12 Old Firm games. Only a last-gap Rabbi Matondo strike in April’s meeting prevents a clean sweep in the current league campaign. Once again it was only when 2-0 down that Rangers’ bravery on the ball started to show and answers to the Celtic press emerged.

Clement conceded that “discussions” need to take place regarding another slow start but these talks are not new. It feels as if everyone knows their part in the Old Firm script these days amongst these two squads. Celtic, even in a season with poor moments and fragilities evident, have enough quality to always win in moments. Rangers, just as was the case under their two previous bosses, still lack the intensity of their rivals to not grant them a foothold. Some individuals, such as Dujon Sterling, performed admirably but not enough reached that level. John Lundstram took away Rangers’ joker card with a mindless and unnecessary lunge on Alasdair Johnson. They’re routinely stronger than Celtic late on in games, who start at such an intensity. Once again the task of turning the tide at Parkhead was left to 10 men, not 11.

This time two years ago it was Van Bronckhorst’s side losing 2-1 at Ibrox to all but hand Ange Postecoglou his first title in Scotland. This time one year ago Michael Beale’s side narrowly lost before the split as the Australian gathered his second. This weekend Rangers faced a different manager but the same story as Philippe Clement’s hopes of a league trophy were dashed.

Yesterday Leon King, a young centre-back awarded a long-term contract when Van Bronckhorst was in charge, remained on the bench once again while Sterling played in his fourth different position during Old Firm games alone this season in defence. Nico Raskin, who this time last year looked like the future of the Ibrox midfield, has fallen out of favour under Clement but made a far healthier contribution than Lundstram during his 40 minutes or so on the pitch. Rangers started the second half with Fabio Silva, a forward, on the left wing and Tom Lawrence playing as a central midfielder in a low block. Todd Cantwell, a player that many supporters harboured so many hopes for a year ago, hasn’t been trusted by Clement in this fixture. While Lundstram’s red card will be remembered the midfielder hasn’t ever dominated these games while being front and centre in the Rangers midfield for so many of them. Despite Raskin appearing a far better fit to combat Celtic's midfield trio, he's not started an Old Firm under Clement.

The point? Lessons have not been learned because who has been there to apply lessons between managerial change? This squad, with good players but too many square pegs in round holes, hasn't been constructed with cohesion across the appointment of various styles in the dugout. Leaving one manager to play a young centre-back in the Champions League, King, and others to not play him at all. Or one manager to base his whole midfield around two players, Raskin and Cantwell, and the next to do the very opposite. 

READ MORE: Clement defends Lundstram after 'unnecessary' tackle and talks key Old Firm failing

What can stop the inevitability of this cycle from repeating at the start of next summer? The issue has been continuity. That’s what has left Rangers back at Groundhog Day in each of the past three league campaigns. 

Celtic have a new manager this season to last and, clearly, are not without issues not least in the recruitment department. But there’s continuity in the football played last season to this. That might not have always carried over the course of the league season. Players are still largely fulfilling similar roles. It has carried them over the line in the months and moments that have mattered.

In mitigation, this is something Rangers have moved to address with the appointment of Nils Koppen as head of football recruitment to complete the football board. January recruitment points to a new direction of player profile that can make this summer far more profitable. In the words of John Bennett to “fix” recruitment which can no longer be tailored to one individual manager. Only long-term vision can fix long-term problems. And yet, it was only this time last year that Beale was explaining all of the players arriving in the summer would be traceable to his time in football. While some of the acquisitions made last summer have impressed - such as Jack Butland who kept his side in the game yesterday and Sterling - is the Rangers squad any further forward now than when those comments were made a year ago?

What blame falls upon Clement? Some of course. It’s important to remember that when he arrived the very possibility of a title showdown in early May felt improbable. The likely first-pick front three - Oscar Cortes, Abdallah Sima and Danilo - are all injured. There is still one trophy in the cabinet and another to play for at the end of the month. To this writer at least while Beale’s football deserved more credit before the summer, Clement is a manager who has experienced winning and has the feel of a Rangers boss. Perhaps the last month or so has simply demonstrated the need for tools to get over the line.

Individual calls do merit critique. The absence of Sterling or Raskin’s legs in the middle was a poor move that didn’t require hindsight. The Celtic midfield should’ve at the very least been matched with legs, if not quality. And if the team selection errors are not rectified by the time these two sides meet in a fortnight’s time at Hampden Park then far more criticism will follow. Going into next season without a big Old Firm win would keep a cloud hanging over the summer.

Even when things have changed for Rangers they’ve stayed the same in the Old Firm and in the title race. A manager working with ‘someone else’s squad’ against a more cohesive side. Admittedly there are small margins deciding this fixture, but if they're so small why don't these margins ever vary in Rangers' favour?

Rangers have been trapped in a domestic cycle for three seasons. Things can’t stay the same if they want yesterday to be the final chapter.