Tuesday, 11 September 2018

A huge return for Rangers

If one thing stood out about Rangers’ performance from Kilmarnock onwards, while Steven Gerrard’s men did only lose the one match to Celtic, the displays, particularly from midfield and back the way, lacked the same intensity and energy compared with the previous four or five matches.

The difference? Lassana Coulibaly.

Initially we weren’t too sure what to make of this lad – he seemed a little awkward, prone to clumsy fouls, and while working hard, technically he didn’t seem the most proficient player we’d ever seen in the Light Blue.

But as he played more and more, he became, slowly, completely indispensable, catching up with match sharpness and becoming the engine room Rangers’ midfield has lacked for a long time.

While only on loan, this Mali international was proving why he was an international, and was doing the ugly, harrying, gritty brutal work for those around them so the Scott Arfields, Ovie Ejarias and Ryan Jacks could get on with making things tick a little.

Then St Mirren happened. A comfortable enough win but his injury sustained ruled him out of every match since and while he is back in training, we really hope this weekend hasn’t come too early for him – in many ways, Lassana Coulibaly is the most important player Rangers have.

He protects the players around him and breaks up play, he sits in front of defence and protects the back line, and he gets in the face of the opposition to give space to Rangers’ attackers.

There is no coincidence of that downturn in form, albeit not super drastic, since Coulibaly’s last match in the shirt. His energy has been sorely missing from the middle and we welcome him back with massively open arms – this is a player who Steven Gerrard will surely be seeking to make permanent. That Angers let him go on loan is their loss, and if we can stump up the several million it would surely cost to clinch him for good, it is an outlay worth the investment.

Neil McCann’s Dundee, wretchedly out of form, is the perfect return for Rangers players to get the energy levels back up and the performances similarly up to scratch – but more importantly, we pray Coulibaly is back to ensure that happens.

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