There are growing concerns about Joe Worrall’s presence in the Rangers defence. The biggest issue stems from the prolonged absence of Nikola Katic, who has become a fan’s favourite. Katic played a massive part in the early season defensive solidarity of the Rangers backline. Seven clean sheets in fourteen games is a testament to this. Worrall, on the other hand, has only played in three games where we have kept a clean sheet. Two of those were against Ayr United and St Mirren, in a total of eleven games.
Worrall, in fairness, had an impressive debut against Villarreal. Thrown in right at the deep end. There were stories at the time that Katic was looking tired or that he had a minor calf strain. Either way, Katic has been unable to regain his place in the team. A nightmare against Hamilton, where he looked like a player that hadn’t played for over a month, didn’t help his cause. As a side note, Rangers were keeping a clean sheet when he went off, just saying.
When Worrall signed, he backed himself instantly. He was here to play. He was here to organise the defence. I’m sure a 50% clean sheet ratio would say that the defence was doing just fine. Connor Goldson had been the man with the top-level experience, cajoling and positioning the players around him to protect Allan McGregor. Then Worrall arrived.
Goldson and Katic were fist bumps and high fives. Goldson and Worrall are arguments and shouting matches. There is a noticeable difference in the two partnerships. Katic knows his place as the junior centre half. Worrall wants to be the alpha male. He’s a supremely confident young player. He wants to be the one in charge of the defence when maybe he should be concentrating on his own performance. Goldson was doing just fine until Worrall arrived. If you watch games back or pay close attention in the future, they are constantly at each other after goals conceded or mistakes.
I think that Katic is the better player. Positionally he doesn’t get caught on the wrong side of forwards and he has more pace. Katic also covers his full back and other centre half really well. Statistically, Katic is better in the air and at blocking shots than Worrall too. Worrall can get too close in the wrong areas of the field and either fouls or gets spun. It helps Katic’s case that he has a few goals to his name too. The only real area where Worrall appears to be stronger is in his forward passing accuracy. But not by much.
Goldson and Katic dovetail better. Their strengths and weaknesses seem to balance off better. Older football fans will remember the Scotland National team that had Willie Miller and Alex McLeish as it’s partnership in defence. Alan Hansen only got 26 Scotland caps despite being one of the most decorated and finest players of his generation. Not just on a Scottish level, Hansen would make most World XI teams at the time based on individual ability. McLeish and Miller were the better partnership though.
One of the biggest issues for fans is that Katic is “one of our own” whereas Worrall is only here on loan. He seems himself as a Nottingham Forrest player and doesn’t want to stay after his loan period ends. Why should we develop another club’s player to the detriment of our own? This point is more pertinent when the loan player doesn’t appear to be any better than the one he is keeping out the team.
It’s an interesting conundrum for Gerrard to solve. I still think if Katic had come in against Hamilton and strolled it, he would be back in the starting XI. He will get his chance again, hopefully this time he’ll take it and return to his early season form that made us fall in love with the Goldson-Katic partnership in the first place. I don’t know why Goldson and Worrall are clashing horns anyway, we all know Allan McGregor is the alpha male at Ibrox!