McCulloch and Black in Defence

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If there has been one absolute
consistency with Rangers this season, it has been the simply dire defence.
Barely qualifying for pub level, a combination of Carlos Bocanegra, Dorin
Goian, Kirk Broadfoot, Ross Perry, Emilson Cribari et al has been quite atrocious
at the back. The lack of desire and/or quality has been incriminating and has
led to some pretty horrendous defeats, such as out in Stirling, and at home to
Queen of the South, not to mention Wednesday’s atrocity against Inverness.

However, one player has stood out
among supporters for his commitment, attitude, energy, desire and all-round
handsomeness. That player is of course Lee McCulloch, who has mostly been
deployed in the final third, be it as attack-minded midfielder or out-and-out
striker. His qualities in the air are well-known, he is strong, has good
positional sense, gets stuck in when needed and inspires those around him. He
is a leader, and quite literally, as Rangers’ captain, is the leader. He is also experienced as a defender.
One other player sticks out in
terms of terrier-like attributes. Ian Black, while not having a sparkling
season in midfield, would be the second most obvious candidate when it comes to
no-nonsense football. He is strong, he is not afraid, and while he is not the biggest,
he makes up for that with tenacity.
Given the categorical failings of
every defender Rangers have tried this season, it seems as good a bet as any to
try the above two players at the back.
Quite simply there is zero
leadership in defence – none of the current bunch have an ounce of command in
them, and while Lee Wallace stands out as better quality than the rest, he is a
left-back and not a leader in any way. Ross Perry and Emilson Cribari have been
the main 2 in defence, and have looked quite simply like the worst defensive
partnership the club has had for decades. One looks like he has lost every
ounce of promise his fleeting appearances last season presented, and the other
looks like he has lost the will to play football.
Leadership in defence would be
thoroughly welcomed, and given the relative qualities of McCulloch and Black,
those two would do no worse in that slot than the players whose primary
position is supposed to be at the back.
McCulloch would soak up any long hopeful balls much like Christian Dailly did back in the day, and aerially Rangers would be a heck of a lot less vulnerable than they currently are.
Naturally, what happens to the
positions they vacate? Not a lot really – one thing Rangers have is a decent
abundance of midfielders and attackers. Maybe not Messi and Xavi in quality but
certainly the numbers are there. There are more than enough players to engage
the empty slots – with MacLeod and Hutton as CM, Shiels, Templeton, McKay,
Faure, Argyriou and Aird as potential wingers, and Kyle and Little up front,
there are resources to cover.
In simple terms, something new
and radical must be attempted to stop the defensive bleeding. The backline is
frail and suffers from a ‘failure to communicate’. It also has no presence or
leadership, and there is a lack of basic honest-to-goodness strength.
With McCulloch and Black in
there, this would no longer be a problem.