In Steven Gerrard’s first season at Rangers, his first season as a manager, he signed 20 players. There were 11 players who left the club and about 20 who left on loan, most of whom will never play for the club again. This analysis will breakdown the end of season ratings of the Rangers defence in the Scottish Premier League.
This gave us an indication of the task Gerrard ahead of him when he took over. He had about six weeks to build a squad and prepare them for the Europa League qualifiers. A tough start for the Liverpudlian at the Ibrox.
This level of turnover of players requires a miracle worker for them all to succeed. At the end of the season, we can see that Rangers have improved immensely, so the season must have been a success, right? In this first part, we look at who came into the defence and the impact they have had if any!
Analysis – defence – 8/10
Allan McGregor – 8/10
The goals against in the league has gone from over 50 to 27. That’s not a coincidence. He has better centre-halves in front of him but considering it is an entirely new defence (except James Tavernier), that’s some record. Allan McGregor’s been a key player and contributed hugely in getting into the group phase of the Europa League for Rangers. Needs to “calm the heid” though.
Connor Goldson – 8/10
Another outstanding success. He’s missed a lot of football in recent seasons but barely missed a game all season. Looks so much better with Nicola Katic beside him but seemed to clash with Joe Worrall. Will improve next season, hopefully with Katic by his side. Imperious in the final Old Firm game.
Nikola Katic – 7/10
His season is broken into three parts. A great start, a shaky middle and a great finish. His last six games showed his potential and that he has listened to his coaches. Perfect centre-half for the Scottish game. Katic also offers our first real threat at set pieces for years. His distribution has improved recently as well, a further sign he has been working hard behind the scenes. Hopefully, he’ll be given the starting slot alongside Goldson next season.
Joe Worrall – 6/10
If we didn’t have Connor Goldson he probably would have been a success with Katic. He’s made a few key errors in big games which haven’t done him any favours. He also took Katic’s place when he’d become a fan’s favourite. From day one he announced he liked to be vocal and organise the defence, Goldson was already doing this. When you look at the body language, there was an obvious clash in personalities with Goldson. He did ok but there’s not many that wanted him to be kept. I don’t think he’s as good as he thinks he is, however.
Gareth McAuley – 3/10
The lifelong bluenose was delighted to sign, obviously as cover and to provide guidance to the younger players. He didn’t have much impact on the first team, had one stinker and was never seen again. He’ll have been glad to have worn the shirt if nothing else, retirement looms.
Jon Flanagan – 6/10
A controversial signing at the time due to incidents in his personal life but on paper, he made good sense. Can cover anywhere across the back four, limited going forwards but solid defensively. He found most games at left back offering a balance to the marauding Tavernier on the other side. Had a decent start but then had a dramatic drop in form. His recent return has coincided with what appears to have been a significant weight loss. He looks fitter and sharper. Another who was outstanding in the last Old Firm game.
Borna Barisic – 5/10
A hugely frustrating season from the Croatian international. He has the potential to offer similar numbers to Tavernier, obviously without the penalties. He had been doing ok and getting a run of games before he picked up an injury, however, he’s subsequently looked alarmingly short of confidence. His best games have been beside Katic on the left-hand side and I would like to see him given a chance there early next season. Barisic is the very definition of a player that needs to be coached. Plenty Rangers stars have had indifferent first seasons before enjoying a successful career at Ibrox. If he does leave at least we won’t lose money on him due to his international status.
Matt Polster – 1/10
He’s been injured most of his time at the club. He might turn out to be a useful utility player or he might end up going on loan back to the States never to be seen again.
Andy Firth – 1/10
Third choice goalkeeper. A strange signing given that we have some decent youngsters at the club between the posts. McGregor’s long term replacement? Probably not. Strange, just strange.
Consistency is key
Rebuilding the defence was a key objective in Steven Gerrard’s first season. Overall, you’d have to say it’s been a success. It was the defence that got Rangers into the Europa League group stages after all. Consistency has been the biggest problem this season but next year eight or nine of the starting XI including three of the defence will be known. There just remains a doubt over the first choice left back if Barisic is to go.
Max Lowe who was at Aberdeen on loan and Greg Taylor at Kilmarnock have both been mentioned. Both players would be available for less than we would get for Barisic and “know the league”. A bit of an odd choice but Alberto Moreno is out of contract at Liverpool, at 26 years old he would also offer a similar attacking threat and was keeping Andy Robertson out of the team until he got injured.
One of Gerrard’s successes was building the defence and without a lot of time to drill them either. It is hugely encouraging that if Barisic doesn’t settle, left back is the only position that needs to be filled. Another centre-back will be brought in as cover and to challenge the first-choice pairing. One of the youth team players and Ross McCrorie acting as fourth choice in an emergency should suffice.
Personally, I’d keep Barisic and work with him. I don’t think it’s a priority because his obvious talent is there, he just needs to play in a consistent defence with his best pal Katic next to him. A couple of decent early games and he’ll be fine. If not, I think he is already in Steven Gerrard’s last chance saloon!