With Daniel Candeias’ move to Turkey all-but-confirmed, a few cynical comments (which had a semblance of truth in all fairness) suggested the biggest victim of this would be James Tavernier.
After all, the prolific duo on the right of the captain and the ex-Benfica man had allowed the former Wigan right back to express himself in ways he might not otherwise, and gave him extraordinary stats for a man of his position.
Indeed, it was suggested that without Candeias covering Tavernier’s backside, the flanker will now suffer from the loss of his mate and his own performances could deteriorate.
In one sense, we have already mitigated Tavernier’s current weak form – by no means bad, the wide man hasn’t been up to speed yet, and his crossing and dribbling have been below his typical standards.
And with Candeias only playing a minor role in pre-season, the case of Tavernier suffering the loss of his buddy may actually have some merit.
However, could last night’s superb win over St Joseph’s have a bit of a clue as to a potential solution to the issue?
Matt Polster put in another polished display at right back – defending well enough (for what little he had to do), he got forward plenty and we only counted one cross which went abegging. Otherwise his advanced work was actually very good indeed and he supported the front three very effectively.
Could the USA international be the new Candeias, but with a switch? Could he be installed permanently as RB with Tavernier given full licence to attack on the right side as a winger?
And while on paper Tav would be said winger, it could operate much as before – with both players taking turns to support attack while the other covers in defence. In short, the former Fire man would cover for Tav’s attacks before then doing it himself. Pretty much the same pattern as previously, just a slight re-jig?
Of course, this doesn’t cover the selection issues over Arfield on that right side and indeed right winger Sheyi Ojo’s position, but it does give Gerrard the extra options he needs to be able to deploy that symmetrical flank system whereby both sides see that level of interchange (Barisic/Jones, Polster/Tavernier).
It’s a possibility, one of many, and Polster’s emergence in pre-season has certainly made the loss of Candeias much less of an issue than it might have been.
Gerrard mitigated for all this. He brought in a tonne of quality players, and now others want to leave. But this was the plan in the first place, we believe.
And with the options we’re potentially now seeing, the direction starts to look clearer.