While Rangers fans are mostly regaling in joy over the return of Nikola Katic (including ourselves), one thing his restoration hasn’t done much for is to make the backline look any less fragile than it has all season.
While Rangers’ goals conceded tally isn’t really that bad (25, second best in SPL), all season the personnel has chopped and changed and at no point has any one single combination convinced that it’s the future of the club.
One thing we cannot get our head around, no matter who plays at the back, is how staggeringly rubbish ball distribution from the rear is.
Connor Goldson was brought in as a composed and polished defender, slick and able to pick out a pass – the reality is he’s absolutely horrendous at finding a man.
And that incompetency has spread – Joe Worrall, Katic et al have all similarly been diabolical for forward distribution – aiming hopeless balls forwards which invariably get intercepted.
Of course, many could argue it’s actually the fault of the front men for not picking up the lobs, for not running to the right channels or anticipating the flight – but unfortunately there’s only so many times you can use that excuse.
Furthermore, and this one is solely on Steven Gerrard – the Goldson Katic pairing, so dominant and assured last year, was embarrassingly exposed at least twice yesterday – each of the pair committed a defensive howler a piece (Katic being easily turned by Ikpeazu, Goldson being out of position for at least one attack and being done for pace) while Hearts’ consolation really was a poor one to give away as well.
The parting of this pairing seems to have absolutely wrecked it, and better teams than Hearts (of which there are several in the SPL) will have far better joy against it unless they can recapture their early season form.
We have no idea why Gerrard has mismanaged his defensive partnership so badly – it’s been a long-running frustration for fans seeing chopping and changing, and crucially the fixing of what wasn’t even broken.
But it better get its act together because it’s going to be severely tested in the next four matches.