THIS summer will be a momentous one over at Ibrox. As their bitter rivals go chasing a record-breaking tenth consecutive title, there is no room for error for Steven Gerrard and his backroom team.

The long and short of it is that Rangers supporters will demand a championship come May: anything less will be seen as failure. Now, I happen to think that’s particularly harsh. The quest to deny Celtic 10-in-a-row has surely become an unwanted sideshow for Gerrard, whose primary remit should simply be to continue improving the club and restoring them to the summit of Scottish football.

That progress has been made since the former Liverpool captain took the reins in Govan is beyond dispute. Supporters from the green-and-white half of Glasgow will enjoy taunting the other half about point gaps and the auspicious lack of silverware in the Ibrox trophy cabinet since Gerrard’s appointment, but that misses the point.

Before Gerrard came in, Rangers had no clear tactical identity. Now, they do. Before Gerrard, Rangers were unable to defeat their rivals. Now, they can. Before Gerrard, Rangers failed to make any sort of meaningful impression in Europe. Now, they have.

These are all tangible signs of the progress being made under the 40-year-old’s watch and while his tenure has been far from perfect, there is a clear indication that things are moving in the right direction. If this were any other club, at any other time, Gerrard would surely be given the opportunity to gradually progress and ‘close the gap’ with Neil Lennon’s side.

But because this is Scotland – and perhaps more pertinently, because this Rangers – time is a luxury that Gerrard cannot afford. Like it or loathe it, this season is not like any other and there is one simple goal that must be achieved: Rangers must win the league.

In order for that to happen, a strong transfer window is an absolute must. We’re now at a point where it is no longer fanciful to suggest that a handful of Rangers players would be capable of holding their own in the Celtic squad, but there is no question that Lennon has far greater squad depth at his disposal.

If Rangers are to seriously challenge for the title then Gerrard needs a better pool of players to choose from. Sure, the starting XI could use a couple of new faces but the main issues lie when we look beyond the matchday squad. There are too many players at the club who simply don’t have deputies capable of stepping in in their absence.

Matt Polster cannot play the same role as James Tavernier. Jermain Defoe, while clearly still in possession of the penalty-box instincts that built his career, does not offer the same sort of dynamism up front as Alfredo Morelos. The likes of Jordan Jones and Brandon Barker do not offer the same level of skill and direction as Ryan Kent and last season, Andy Halliday and Jon Flanagan showed that they cannot be relied upon to contribute to attacking phases of play in the same way that Borna Barisic does.

These are the areas where further reinforcements are required and to be fair, the work has already begun. Wes Foderingham has been replaced by Jon McLaughlin to serve as understudy to Allan McGregor – a fine addition, in my eyes – while Calvin Bassey has been recruited, presumably as back-up to Barisic. The 20-year-old is something of an unknown prospect and time will tell if he is up to scratch, but it is nonetheless encouraging to see new faces in areas of the squad where they’re required.

Improving the weaker areas of the squad could prove to be the best route to ending Rangers’ wait for another title. In their book The Numbers Game, authors Chris Anderson and David Sally theorise that football is what’s known as a weak-link game, and that the best way to improve a team’s chance of success is by upgrading the worst players in the system.

The argument goes like this. Football is a low-scoring game, and goals are rare. The weakest player in a starting XI is more likely to make errors, which in turn both deny the team opportunities to score and make them more likely to concede. This has a compound effect and the team is made poorer as a result.

In short, a team is only as good as their worst player. They are the weak link and by minimising their errors, your team becomes more likely to win any given match. You could put Lionel Messi in a team of duds and so long as his team-mates keep gifting goals at one end and fail to string two passes together at the other, it doesn’t matter how many goals the Argentinian scores. You’re doomed to fail. For this reason, football falls into the category of a weak-link game.

This is in direct contrast to a sport like basketball where it’s easy to score points. One superstar, capable of pretty much carrying the team by themselves, can prove decisive due to the high-scoring nature of the sport. If you have a stand-out player, they can take the game by the scruff of its neck and personally deliver success by scoring basket after basket. It’s a far more individualistic sport and teamwork is simply not as important as it is in the beautiful game. It’s about how good your best player is: a strong-link game.

Improving your bench and your reserves might not be the sexiest transfer policy in the world, but it is the most obvious route to improvement for Rangers. During the first half of last season, they showed that their strongest XI is capable of mounting a legitimate title challenge. It was only in the new year when Morelos went off the boil, and the likes of Tavernier and Ryan Jack suffered injuries, that the wheels came flying off the campaign. Gerrard simply didn’t have adequate replacements.

That was the takeaway lesson from last season for Gerrard. Lest we forget, he is still a young manager in his first senior coaching role. He will (hopefully) learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. Fleshing out the squad and bringing in capable understudies might not generate the same amount of headlines as splashing the cash on an exciting forward but it is the simplest way of improving a squad. And with so much on the line this season, it is a transfer policy that Gerrard cannot afford to ignore.