The dreaded International Break (as many a Rangers fan would call it) is over for now and our team was back in action on Saturday as we faced Dundee United at a drizzly Ibrox, but our performance was a ray of sunshine with four goals scored and plenty more chances created. It was without doubt our best display over the 90 minutes so far this season, as the team handled a higher press very well and looked really dangerous on the break. This was more impressive for the fact we had many disruptions due to injuries both pre match and during the first half. Despite this, the team kept up the level of intensity that we all were keen to see more consistently in matches.
We cannot ignore the fact that another injury that occurred in the second half came about from a challenge that in any clear minded football fans view would be a red card. The fact that not even a foul was given on Alfredo Morelos shows that Kevin Clancy is beyond an incompetent referee, there has to be something further to it than that. How can any professional view the outcome of that incident and not see that the Dundee United player had committed a dangerous act on an opponent? It is inconceivable that Clancy’s outcome was to not even award a foul for Rangers, let alone a red card. I can only hope that in the coming weeks our club makes it abundantly clear that incidents like this cannot continue, as the Dundee United players would have absolutely felt emboldened to be more physical knowing that they would get more leeway with Kevin Clancy in the “middle”.
It is also not unfair to ask why a number of our players were suffering muscle injuries so early on. When it’s one player then there is not much you can do about it, but the fact it was three by the time we hit 30 minutes is strange. Even though there is no sign of these strains being long term, it just shows that we do need to have another player or two in. Although, given how the subs performed, that might not be too pressing a matter.
Here is how you rated our players from Saturday’s comfortable win.
Jon McLaughlin – 6.4 (7)
It was probably the closest he has come to conceding a goal for Rangers so far but once again the “back up” keeper kept a clean sheet which saw Rangers break a clean sheet record in Scotland. Although so much of the good work regarding this run is down to what is happening in front of him, I again come back to the organisational side of McLaughlin’s game which really helps the defence. His use of the ball is also a lot better than McGregor’s, the defence are very comfortable in passing the ball back to him and he is more nimble I think and is more willing to pass it from the back as opposed to a high ball which is more common from McGregor. One or two suggestions of him flapping at some crosses but I would not be overly concerned by this, he still deserves to keep his place in the side.
James Tavernier – 7.7 (8)
250 appearances for a player that seems to divide opinion amongst the support. You will have the camp that will likely never really be able to get past certain parts of his game, and those who will argue for him on the basis of stats. Well, the stats don’t lie, and Tavernier’s output this season has been excellent and it is so very deserved that he grabbed a goal on this landmark game for him. Running into the penalty area to get on the end of a loose ball, that’s two in two for the captain whose output from right back is fantastic. He was by far the more impressive performer in terms of the full backs, and it drove us on. The talent of his for a modern full back is without question, whether it be the stamina to play like that so often, his set piece acumen or even his improvements he has made on the defensive side of things. I believe that if he was to be a captain to lift some major honours for us, he would be in the conversation for one of our best right backs in the modern era. The question would be, if this did not happen for him, where does he land in that conversation?
Connor Goldson – 7.3 (7)
I’ve mentioned before the fact that Goldson looks so composed at the moment, whether it be beside Helander or Balogun. It must be tough for a defender to have to adapt between different styles of centre backs, as the two options are, but Goldson has never seemed phased by it and no matter what he puts in the same level of performance. You have to give him credit for that on this occasion especially given the last minute change to the line-up. Those who are in the grounds for our games so far have noted the fact that he is by far the loudest of the defenders during the game, constantly talking, constantly organising. He is really growing into this senior defender tag, and is a player who would have previously been seen as one we could sell for a decent fee to one who we really need to keep at all costs.
Filip Helander – (7)
Came in as a late call up for Leon Balogun, and as a result our website was unable to update the ratings page in time. As a result, you have rated Leon Balogun as opposed to the Swede, but I will use the privilege that I have in writing these for you and override that and simply rate Helander based on my rating, as this is a far better reflection of his game. Another solid performance and actually was helping Barisic quite a few times defensively. Interesting that Gerrard’s intention was to rest Helander, but this would have purely been down to his recent international appearance because he has looked excellent at the back since his long injury lay off. It is also right to rotate now and again as Balogun has looked very good too. It’s a great problem to have. I don’t know about you but I would say Helander is absolutely our #2 centre back.
Borna Barisic – 6.9 (6)
An uncharacteristically harder day at the office for Barisic, off the back of a tough match for Croatia against Portugal which saw him dropped for the other international his team played. He is, as we know, a confidence player which maybe tells you that he is still feeling the affects of that experience in Porto (a stadium he has happier memories in of course!) and he just looked a bit slower and there wasn’t as many killer balls from him. A more subdued day but nowhere near a disastrous day of course. We know that all it takes is a wicked free kick to get that smile back.
Ryan Jack – 4.8 (5)
Only lasted 8 minutes before a calf strain forced him off. An unfortunate injury for him but I wouldn’t think he will be missing for an extended period.
Steven Davis – 8.5 (8) – Man of the Match
Our sponsorship of Davis is looking a lot better now! This was a superb game from the Northern Ireland legend. It was like he had the Playstation/Xbox (I don’t want to start a fight here) controller and was dictating so much of the team, really solid passes, a lot more movement, he was just so much sharper. He even found himself in more advanced positions, you would never be able to tell he was just off the back of two international matches. When you talk about the team performance, a lot of that is down to what Davis allows the likes of Kent, Hagi etc to do. Really good day for him, he is proving me wrong with a lot of stuff I said earlier in the season regarding his role in the side and I am absolutely delighted about it, this system is suiting him down to the ground.
Ryan Kent – 8.2 (8)
He was so unfortunate not to score last time out but he got back on the scoresheet here with a goal that had a beautiful simplicity to it. It was brilliant build up play with both he and Ianis Hagi, and the ball played in allowed Kent to cut inside then back out before smashing the ball in with his left. Sheer brilliance, which was then echoed for the rest of the game with a continued desire to see us score as many goals as possible. One is never enough for him, and this was another great day for him in a team that he has fully committed to, and boy does that make us look scary for all our opponents.
Ianis Hagi – 6.9 (7)
Lots of noise over people wanting to see more from him in the game and actually we saw that here I thought. Two assists, nice link up play, playing in that role that he was always destined to play in and his passing is looking a lot better now. If he can play a few games in a row like this then we can say with assurance that he is over the dip he suffered at the start of the season, and even if it’s less about goals that he scores and more about slick passing, given his output today I don’t see why that would be a problem.
Brandon Barker – 4.7 (5)
Another player to depart in the first half due to a hamstring strain. His inclusion felt very surprising pre match but Gerrard clearly feels he has a role to play in the side and will persist with him. Whether his forced absence will give Gerrard more to think about will be interesting. Some players may not get a better chance.
Kemar Roofe – 7.2 (7)
As a result of the number of injuries, Roofe found himself in a number of different positions during the game, in fact I think he was everywhere along the front 4 at some point. This is the good aspect of Kemar Roofe though, and I think he is getting better with every game. His goal was a real poachers finish, the instinct to get his foot on that driven ball, as well as lurking in the box as he seems to really enjoy, is a really great part of his game. As time goes on we will continue to see why his acquisition was an astute piece of business.
Glen Kamara – 7.2 (7)
A combination we maybe thought we would not get the chance to see was that of Davis and Kamara, but actually having Davis in there might well help Kamara show the level of display we saw him produce with Finland recently. Solid in the challenge, more license to drive on a bit further and looked to have a bit more purpose in the middle. Very good match from him, and he looked far more happy and free playing alongside Davis. Food for thought for Steven Gerrard?
Alfredo Morelos – 6.4 (7)
The only thing that will likely be talked about from Morelos’ day is the way he left the game due to the shocking challenge on him. It must not be forgotten, however, that when he was on the park he was doing really well. He came deep many times to try influence the play as he likes to do, won a lot of balls in the middle and looked to spread the play as well. I’m sure this is precisely what Gerrard wanted to see from him coming back into the side, and it is beyond a shame that Morelos could not see this through.
Calvin Bassey – 6.6 (6)
Speed and strength are a dangerous combination for opposing players, and Calvin Bassey running with the ball reminds me of a steam locomotive, he will take some stopping when he is in full flow. When he is in for Barisic, I do not see him being the same type of left back, he will offer something very different and we saw a glimpse of that in terms of attacking contribution with his driving runs. It will be tough for him to get much game time you would imagine, but off the back of Saturday I would be tempted to let him play this coming Thursday in Gibraltar to see if this is something he can produce from the start.
Scott Arfield – 7.7 (8)
He seems to have been given the tag of super sub, and on days like today the word “super” very much applies. A goal and an assist off the bench is an excellent return and Arf looked desperate to do everything he could to get more goals for the team. This was deeply impressive from him, by far the best we have seen him this season. I can absolutely see why so many would like to see him start more when playing like that, and he probably will against Red Imps, but imagine having the facility to bring that type of game off the bench at 60 minutes against a tiring defence? That could prove rather useful.