Ibrox was an emotional venue on Wednesday night, as it would be the first game our team would play following the passing of one of the greatest our club will ever have. Walter Smith, a manager who helped Rangers to 13 of our 55 league titles to date, as well as numerous cups and some amazing European adventures. The tributes to him for superstars of football, those who played for his Rangers sides, and others who were very aware of the presence and talent as a man manager, a tactician and a leader. Arriving at the stadium earlier than normal, looking at the vast number of scarves, shirts and flowers that had been left by so many Rangers fans, as well as supporters of other clubs who felt it right to honour this footballing giant, it was a sombre experience, but it gave us all a chance to think back on the many great memories that happened because of what he did for us. And being in the ground so soon after the news was confirmed, to be with our own and to put arms around shoulders, was important for us all who took the news understandably hard. Our opponent being Aberdeen felt very appropriate as well, as outwith our Old Firm neighbours, this was the team that Walter would have some of the biggest challenges against during the 90’s, of which he would triumph on every occasion. There is little doubt that Mr Smith would be looking down on us and watching his beloved Rangers side once again.
Our current team has failed to really blow a team out of the water this season, and us fans keep thinking that the next game will be the one where they can put in such a display. Some would suggest that the events building up to the game might lead to the team not being at their best in any case, but that cannot be seen as an excuse for not getting keeping or indeed extending our lead at the top of the table. Yet again, our start to the game was dreadful. A calamitous opening goal, one of the worst I think I have ever seen us concede, was followed by a second concession from a corner, and an already emotional crowd was making it’s feelings very clear to our players and our bench that this simply was not good enough at any level. We just did not get going at all, and only when we had a massive mountain to climb did we start to properly look to exploit the spaces in the wide areas. A goal back from a free kick which was headed in very nicely, and the second half was exactly as you would expect it to be, the play being practically all in the Aberdeen half. Huffing and puffing without any real major test of their keeper, before we were awarded a penalty for a shirt pull in the box which, by the laws of the game, was the correct decision (and I would urge anyone who feels cheated or hard done by that this was given to please cry a whole lot more). Our captain stepped up to convert from the spot, and despite trying to find the winning goal, we were not able to do so, and the points would be shared. Our home form of late is very concerning, and our overall game management is really poor. We need to stop giving teams the sort of chances that we afford them. Our defending needs to improve dramatically, and we need to settle on a front line that gives us everything it needs to succeed, with injuries certainly playing a part in our struggle of late. We can point to still being top of the table, but what we are seeing on the field is something that can only concern us.
Here is how you rated our players from an emotionally charged night at Ibrox.
Jon McLaughlin – 4.5 (5)
I have praised McLaughlin in the past for doing well and commanding his area whenever he has come into the side. I am now wondering whether I have simply based that off of the fact that I saw him purely as a back up and that he was doing well in the circumstances. Now that he is playing far more, he will be judged to a higher standard and in this game he was not commanding at all. The first goal is a joke, and as much as it is fine and well to follow (what I can only assume) the instructions of playing it short, he has to have his own mind and realise Aberdeen are pressing high, and playing it short may not be the best idea. This was all part of the poor night he had, it was a bit “going through the motions” without really thinking for himself. Neither of our keepers have been a major stand out this season, and we need to find some form from one of them, and stick with them.
James Tavernier – 5.2 (6)
For a player who got a goal and an assist to be rated as low as this may seem like a surprise, but in regard to the rest of his game, that is why he has been dragged down as low as this. An overlapping full back needs to be able to get past his opposite number in the wide area, yet you could count on one hand the number of times he could do so. He is also culpable for allowing his man to get passed him at their corner, leading to the second goal. All the same, it is still worth crediting him for what he does well in the game. His cross from the free kick is really great, as well as the header which makes for a very good goal. And, in spite of him not taking any penalties so far this season, when he stepped up to slot home it was a well hit spot kick. In many ways, he is the most divisive player in our team right now. Some will only want to look at the good points, some only the bad. Let’s see if he can at least show more good than bad in the upcoming games.
Connor Goldson – 4.5 (5)
It seems as though you’ve more of a chance of Goldson finding his man when they are 50 yards away as opposed to 2 yards. His short passing of late has been atrocious, and I am now starting to worry about his lack of finishing. He is given plenty of chances to head home, and is always able to rise above his man, but he just fails to commit enough to the chance almost every time. That word “commit” seems apt as well, as you are now seeing many thinking that he is showing no real interest, he is another who cannot be too pleased with how that first goal went. It is too important a position to just hope things work out on. One way or the other, the fans need clarity on that situation.
Leon Balogun – 5.2 (6)
Right now, Leon is our best defender, and it just shows how much of a relief it was that his injury sub in Europe was only a precaution and definitely a good decision. I don’t see him having any major issues at present, and although there are two goals conceded, you would be really harsh to point any blame at him. His speed against attackers of late has proved very important as well.
Calvin Bassey – 5.3 (6)
I thought this was an admirable display from Calvin going forward. You could see that he was trying and was really wanting to make things happen, and he was talking advantage of the space afforded to him when he could get behind the right sided Aberdeen player. His crossing was looking pretty good as well, he is unfortunate not to get an assist from this game given the quality of ball in the first half. Coming in and playing like the should be looked upon kindly I feel.
Joe Aribo – 4.7 (5)
People who are critical of Aribo, even when many want to praise him no end when he is playing well, is the question of actual end product. He can do really well in the space between the halfway line and 25 yards from goal, but it’s when he gets into that final space that he either doesn’t trust himself enough to finish off the move, or is not sure what the move should be. He should have a lot more goals and assists to his name at this point than what he does. That could come back to bite him down the line.
John Lundstram – 4.1 (4)
Like a couple of others than have already been mentioned, his lack of awareness for the first goal is really criminal. He needs help from Goldson in terms of a shout that he is being closed down, but even so he cannot mess about with the ball in that part of the field as he did. This was symptomatic of what was a major drop in form from him, where he would sit way too deep, almost deeper than the centre backs at points, and was offering nothing positive in the midfield tussle. It was not in any way surprising that he was hooked as early as he was.
Glen Kamara – 4.6 (5)
I’m disappointed with Glen here, because he should be doing a lot more going forward than what he did do, and you cannot use the excuse of “that’s not what he does” because he has shown for us plenty of times that he can do that. It is all fine and well being able to do those wee moves in the middle to get passed your man, but what next? Too often he cuts back and plays the easy pass (old habits creeping up) and any momentum that can be gained from this movement just goes.
Ianis Hagi – 4.4 (5)
Football can really bite you in the backside when you feel so sure about an opinion, and after the St Mirren game I stated that Hagi was key to us playing well and should be the first name on the team sheet. From that, to this where he was just so poor and ineffective. He kept losing the ball, his passing was way off in terms of retention and decision making. I can only hope this was an off night in respect of how he does this season, because he is far too talented to be so wasteful.
Alfredo Morelos – 5.6 (6) – Man of the Match
At least he now seems to be back in the goals again, and this header was a much better one than Sunday’s. The cross in from Tav is great, but the rise and thundering header was very much a “get in the net you ******* ball” (take note Goldson) and typical of the type of forward he is. That said, he was too preoccupied for the rest of the game with his own private battle with Brown, which played perfectly into the Aberdeen players hands, and was distracting him from what he should have been focussing on.
Kemar Roofe – 3.9 (5)
He found himself some chances but just wasn’t able to quite get enough of a chance to convert, I’m thinking of the ball looped over the top in the second half which slowed down and moved away from him more and more without him actually doing anything with it, which watching the game live you find deeply annoying that he doesn’t deal with the ball way sooner. I think he struggled deeply here to make anything happen, and it raises the question again of whether he and Morelos are stepping on each other’s toes. Can they work well together? Do they look like a partnership? Or are they simply two players that both want to do the same thing?
Scott Arfield – 4.2 (5)
I think when he came on he added more dynamism to the midfield and clearly his instructions were to bring the ball forward at a much quicker tempo. I thought it was a clever move which made complete sense, and you wonder whether he helps the team be more clinical in front of goal if he started games.
Scott Wright – 4.3 (5)
He continues to show that he is a good bench option but no more. His speed is something that can be a real weapon against an opponent, as well as his heart, but he needs to work on making that last longer. Do that, and he will be onto something very special.
Fashion Sakala – 4.4 (5)
In the right place in the area to be brought down with the shirt pull, a contribution toward a goal at least, but it is difficult to judge him too much without seeing him in from the start.