The mess in midfield

The mess in midfield

If ever a transfer window summed up the aimless direction Mark Warburton is going in, it would be this one. With two new creative midfielders signed up over the past 48 hours, to call the man’s obsession with midfield unnerving would be something of an understatement.

Since this window began, Rangers have been linked with at least five creative midfielders, two of them confirmed as joining up at the Marble Staircase, while the likes of Jota and Hepburn Murphy have gone colder.

And many fans are questioning what Warburton’s signing policy actually is as a result, with an increasing level of exasperation and frustration over the continued targeting of not only creative midfielders, but apparently only loan deals for them too.

It is absolutely true that Rangers effectively lost three midfielders this season; Kranjcar ended up a crock (albeit, with a history of injury, who was it who signed him?), Barton ended up binned (although with a rap sheet longer than Al Capone, who was it who signed him) and Rossiter ended up permanently on the treatment table (although with a history of failing to remain fit at Liverpool, why were Rangers even interested) so there is certainly truth that Warbs has lost a number of personnel there.

Equally though, Matt Crooks has simply been binned for reasons unknown, while Andy Halliday continues to rule defensive midfield inefficiently. Meanwhile in terms of creative midfield? Jason Holt, Harry Forrester, Josh Windass and Barrie McKay remain available. If there is one single position Rangers actually do have a lot of resources in, it is that one. If Warburton feels his options there simply are not good enough, that says more about his own judgement in bringing them here than anything else.

Ergo, to describe his addiction to midfielders as bizarre as ‘kind’ rather sums it up, while more essential areas continue to be neglected. Yes, Rangers have finally been linked with a defender and a striker in Andrew Considine and Saido Berahino, but there seems 5% chance of either happening, and instead Warbs pursues loan deal after loan deal of yet another ‘young creative midfielder’ (usually with a Spanish or Brentford connection).

And yes, there is that issue of loans. Rangers made three loans last seasons. Frankly none of them worked out – the closest was Spurs’ Dominic Ball who was something approaching average. But Arsenal’s Zelalem and Tottenham’s Oduwa were simply epic fails. All went back to their parent clubs and got loaned out elsewhere being deemed not good enough by Mauricio Pochettino or Arsene Wenger. And here we are seeking yet another loan today from the Gooners in Toral, having clinched one yesterday in Hyndman.

Warburton has preached ‘getting things done early’ in the window but some of these new players feel like he is just bulking up the squad for the sake of it rather than ‘adding quality and getting value’ as he is so keen to elicit.

Rangers desperately need a balance in this squad – a healthy number of defenders, some defensively minded midfield units and a reliable striker. Instead it is more lightweight midfielders the manager keeps signing.

I remember once upon a time fellow Bears used to get irate with Uncle Walter seeming to sign nothing but defenders. And often selecting up to seven of them. But the proof was in the pudding with him – the results justified his strategy and that is why he is arguably Rangers’ greatest ever manager alongside Mr Struth. It would be unfair to compare Warburton with either of them, but it goes to show how Walter understood the SPL while Warburton seems to understand little.

Still, we have limited option but to hope it works out.

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  1. I share your despair. Forrester, Windass and O'Halloran are all decent players. Miller can play anywhere in midfield or attack (though I think he is a much better centre-forward than Garner). Add Halliday and Holt, and the fact that Tavernier is safer as a midfielder than a defender (with Hodson a much better right-back) and what we do not need is more midfielders. Meantime we keep giving away stupid goals in defence, with 50,000 supporters knowing central defence is our crying need, and Warburton responds by praising Kiernan to the sky. I'm not sure if he is magic, or just on the magic mushrooms.

    • Hahaha totally agree, we are crying out for a decent goal scorer and I think Jason Cummings would do a great job!!!

  2. he has tinkered with the formation ie Tavernier in midfield and it is apparent to all it looks slightly better and safer yet he still reverts back to him at wing-back. In Crooks he gave him is first selection at Tynecastle and ( also young Dodoo) when it is obvious that is the last ground you would wish to blood any young player and also to make it even worse played him out of position which was grossly unfair and has then castigated him since.A quality central defender ??? a think every football fan anywhere in the Universe KNOWS is the most urgent requirment, yet he buries his head in the sand. Finally i see Brendan Rodgers is going to look at the African market did we not get Kitchenbrand from there 60 odd years ago and does not Dave King live there ???

  3. We need to replace Halliday as a priority. As a defensive midfield player he is a disaster. We also need a striker that can score goals. As far as the two new Loanees are concerned I would have been delighted if they had signed permanent deals and could get rid of the aforementioned. We have to accept however that while King is in control there will be no investment for permanent quality players. Walter Smith's comments are 100% correct.

    • I suspected that Barton went mental after the Parkhead game because of MW's tactics. I read later on that was exactly the case.
      Barton is not quick, but he can tackle a bit and doesn't get pushed around. However, being asked to play as the sole DM in MW's 4-3-3 system, with CBs that have to sit deep because they can't chase down a ball played in behind them, was suicidal.
      The space between the CBs and the midfield was enormous. The Celtic players, Rogic in particular were given free rein to pour into that space with only Barton trying to patrol that area. A hopeless task.
      It seems that one of MW's pets, Halliday, supported his boss. he has been rewarded by being returned to the spot he played in last season against much weaker opposition. We did ok against Celtic in the SC semi final. Mainly because Halliday had Ball there to do the heavy lifting. Baqll was immense that day. Wee barrie played well and got "man of the match". For me, Ball should have claimed that prize.
      Andy Halliday is a total lightweight who gets the brush off in any tussle for the ball. He can't run. He hits too many backward and square passes. He often hits loose passes and gives the ball away too much when he tries anything different. He is always getting caught in possession in dangerous areas by "swanning around" thinking he's Jim Baxter. In his dreams.
      Halliday cannot tackle at all.
      Barton was right. For that he got the flick. We got stuck with the same system. At least when we play the so-called lesser teams. MW tries to tweak things a little when we play Celtic, after the battering at Parkhead, or the other "stronger sides". No pattern and no playing time to develop a consistent style of play.
      Andy has been allowed to "fly under the radar" because he is a "Rangers man". That might well be true. But he will never be a true "Rangers player". Certainly not in the DM position.

  4. Our team is filled with mediocrity, from defence – Tavernier, Kiernan, Wilson (only 37year old Hill has gained pass marks), through midfied – Halliday, Holt, Windass, Forrester, Crooks, to our front line of an ageing Miller, Garner – a combative scrapper with little appetite for goal, Dodoo who looks ill at ease in the frenzy of Scottish football. MacKay is absolvent of harsh criticsm as he has shown glimpses of quality that indicate he could be a tremendous asset – unfortunately he is, as stated, surrounded by bang average players who in times gone by would never have been allowed near a Rangers jersey. Warburton is culpable of not addressing our defensive deficiencies but ultimately without decent financial backing from the board, we will continue to struggle to close the gap on our rival.

  5. I am an avid reader of your blog and completely agree with all of your posts. From the start of the season having so much expectation, the campaign has turned into an humiliating ‘free pass’ for second place. Although, this will still be a considerable challenge given the performances and state of our squad! The reasons behind the downfall lie completely with the manager and the 11 signings he made in the summer. All the high earners, Barton, Kranjcar and senderos have been nothing short of crap and the key areas where we were poor last season (DMF, CB) have not been addressed adequately!! Warburton loves a goalscoring midfielder as that’s what his ‘philosophy’ demands. Having one striker requires goals from midfield and there has been next to nothing this season (Halliday 4 goals, Mckay 3 Goals, Forrester 3 goals, Kranjcar 3 goals Holt 1 goal, Windass 1 goal) compare that to Celtic with Rogic – 10, Armstrong – 8, Forrest -6. Simply not good enough!!

    I am overly concerned about the direction we are heading. The signing policy seems to be buy young and cheap and hope for a sell-on in a few years but that is not going to give us the immediate results that we require (dodoo and crooks are testament to this). The recent loan signings as you mentioned, bring a massive imbalance to the squad and highlight the misjudgement in his signings. I can imagine a few players will be shipped out on loan to make way for these players but where does it leave the likes of Forrester who was one of our biggest positives from last season? His selections dumbfound me, leaving waghorn out over a non-firing garner is my biggest protest! We need pedigree players in fast or the other half of glasgow will be out of sight in no time! Relying on players who have still to make a name for themselves is a massive risk and is currently working against Warburton!

  6. Another good article, unlike many other rangers sites this one seems to have a good grasp on the reality of our situation.

    Our squad is jam packed with mediocre players, only McKay and windass have shown any real promise- and for some reason we don't seem to want to tie McKay down on a long-term deal. It's like we are waiting for him to be sold on cheap. It's exactly these kind of brainless activities that have led to the mess we are in.

    Celtic to their credit operate smartly and to a long-term strategy. They have made a number of excellent additions without spending massive amounts of cash. The result is that they are almost unbeatable domestically.

    Then there's our mess both on and off the park. Iv ran a number of very successful healthcare businesses and while this is different to football, all business must be run to a well thought out and achievable plan. We seem to be running on a day to day basis, with little thought on next month never mind next season.

    Warburton came with a lot of promise, however I can honestly say I saw straight through him. Iv encountered many managers like him in my field- ones that talk a good game and know how to say things people want to hear, but at the same time lack the ability to carry the job out.

    Whilst some fans can't or won't admit to it, the fact is we have the wrong manager at the wrong time. Some point to the lack of funds, however this ignores several important issues. We have the second largest playing budget by a distance, Warburton joined with a clear slate squad wise hence large amounts of available cash. Instead of shelling out 300k (average player salary) on numerous players that have added nothing, this cash could have been spent on a handful of quality players. This was his choice, and his mistake.

    I could write all day about what a fraud king is however that is for a different day. I will however say I don't blame him for not handing Warburton any more cash given his recruitment record. If we fail to get second place then Warburton will surely leave or be sacked, so it would be a major gamble allowing him to sign more average players.

    Unless we get our act together then I can only see a dark future, maybe trump will blow the world up first anyway.

    • could not agree more warburton all he does is talk . talk is cheap wee need action . us fans have done our bit packing ibrox dave king and co need to give us something to shout about not a peep out of them for months I'm actually sick talking about it. can't even buy rangers kit for my kids the last 3 years . absolutely crazy

  7. Warburton worried me with his comment of performing plan A better nonsense when I first learned of it, He hasn't grasped the physical nature of the Spl and has similarities to PLG unfortunately

  8. its not all about money we all know that look what fergie done at aberdeen against the glasgow giants i just want a team thats going to give there all I'm afraid thats not happened with warburton we all know what we need at ibrox looks like directors don't I'm dreading playing against celtic at parted if warburton is still in charge

    • Stevie thats a long way off yet and the league will be wonby then so Celtic wont have the same intensity about them

    • Love your article, Ibrox Noise! Also impressed by comments by E-Chef, Shuggy, and others that are well thought out, grammatically correct, and spelling also fine. Warburton needs to spend on defenders and goal scorers. That has been obvious for a long time. Not enough of the team play with heart and soul. Not getting stuck in physically. Need some raw talent fast. Warburton should play the youngsters. Can't be any worse than some that are playing consistently poor now. Wouldn't play Kiernan, Tavernier, and Wilson. Come on, gers. Get a backbone. Play ruthless like some of the tic players. Broonie gets booked all the time but plays consistently well. You have nothing to lose but that terrific support.

  9. While some might point to the lack of investment to bring in quality players to defend Warburton – Garner cost nearly 4 times as much as Dembele! How much will we get for Garner when Warburton finally realises he's s–t?

    • many fans are happy enough with a player who snarls his way through games, sends more time on his arse than on his feet, is committing fouls every time the ball goes near him, all because he gives the illusion of trying and being passionate. But he is a poor signing and Rangers would be lucky to recoup what MW paid for him

  10. What I hate most of all is all those players on loan it is not a real team give me Roy of the Rovers boy and his team mates that play for the badge and there colors not money give me them who give 100%.
    Do not give me a team of loans who could not care if they win or not spending on a new team now second is the best we can do a complete waste of money but we are good at that nowadays,sorry but I want a team that will stick together for years with a leader that knows what he is doing,MW and DW NEED TO TAKE A WALK AND NEVER LOOK BACK I do not want to go down that road again when we nearly lost every thing.

    • it seems a case of accepting the fact that Celtic are on a different level and should be for many many years, or risking Rangers very future to try to catch them, and as is obvious, its not a definite that such a strategy would pay off anyway.

  11. A great manager, a brilliant backroom staff devoted to development of young (100% contracted for a minimum a 5 years to Rangers) and Mr King told to stay in SA, he his a fraud, we might only be second (seems our present goal of second with no promise or strategy apart from no funds to buy, only loan signings and purchases we do make being boarder line duds) but we are light years from doing anything unless our first step is to sort out the team (defence first).

  12. walter was not always right was he thing bothers me more loan players he is guaranteed them game time or there clubs would not let them join us so that means holt halliday will be benched rangers players that give there all so he is constantly upsetting team spirit .only way forward for us is big strong fast team with plenty hunger keeps together for couple years warburgn aint thet man we not got time to bring on young players

  13. Whilst I share the concerns about Mr Waburton's signing policy, I recall the arrival of Mr Frank McParland, with glowing references about his ability to unearth talent. I assume that he is still influential in the background.

  14. beginning to dislike Warburton intensely. Bolster defence, bolster defence, bolster defence maybe if it was shouted in tandem at Ibrox he might get the message.

  15. King and the board would be mad to put any investment into the club at this time. It would be like laying out a huge block of cheese to tempt the rats back into Ibrox. Ashley hasn't gone away and we still don't know anything about the people behind "Blue Pitch" and "Margarita".
    Does anyone know the story behind McCoist's reported failure to back the board in a new share issue to make sure these cretins were frozen out? Is it true or not?
    Our best hope lies in the coming court cases between Rangers and Ashley. If we win that would free the board to seek a new kit contract. Before the scum moved in we had a previous deal that once delivered 18 million up front and millions more on a yearly basis.
    As there would be an instant explosion of sales, in support of any new deal, we could probably match that at least in any new deal. Meantime we have to cut our cloth to suit.
    On the playing front we could probably get away with playing our slow CBs if they got some protection on both flanks and through the middle by playing TWO quick, good tackling, DMs. To do that we must stop playing Tav at RB, get rid of Andy Halliday, who is a slow lightweight who can't tackle at all. A 4-2-3-1 formation could see us through if we can get all of the squad fit and available.
    Hodson would be the obvious selection for RB. I'd like to see Rossiter and Crooks as the two DMs. I'd also make sure that Senderos was one of the CBs. We are very vulnerable when high balls are played into our box. Senderos and Crooks could sort that perhaps.
    If Rossiter can't play I'd like to see young Jordan Thompson brought back from his loan out to Raith.
    If we do bring anyone in during January, we should be looking at CBs a FBs (lol) and DMs as a priority.

    If MW insists on trying to play 4-3-3 with his usual "favourites" we will really struggle to finish second I feel.

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