Steven Gerrard’s announcement that Filip Helander’s selection on Thursday night was down to his ‘experience’ has confirmed what the manager has publicly revealed to be the reason for the surprise selection against Feyenoord.
With reports of spats internally, Nikola Katic’s omission was conspicuous, especially his complete omission and not just from the XI.
So let’s have a look at Gerrard’s reasoning and see if it stacks up, or if there’s more to this:
First off all he suggests Helander was picked for his experience. Now, on the face of it, a 26-year old would seem to have more of that than a 22-year old. But looking at Helander’s CV, while he has managed 6 Champions League appearances against some very decent teams, he achieved this himself aged just 21 for Malmo. So it was a heck of a long time ago in 2014 that he got that experience.
Then there’s the angle that he has the experience for the national side, but that’s not stopped Borna Barisic being in and out of the Rangers team despite now racking up caps for Croatia. Furthermore, crucially, prior to last night, Filip Helander had never actually played a single match in the Europa League in his entire career bar two in the qualifiers in 2013. If we’re talking about experience, Nikola Katic went through 14 legs of qualifying matches these past two seasons plus one group game.
And then there’s that complete absence from Thursday – is Steven Gerrard seriously wanting us to accept Katic wasn’t ‘experienced’ enough to make the bench but George Edmundson, who only got a couple of matches earlier in the qualifiers is?
Now, we’re not making any scurrilous accusations here, Gerrard said what he said and that’s an end of that.
But it’s clear there are holes in his reasoning, ones which may cover up this alleged spat.
It’s unfortunate, and it’s put the manager in a bit of an awkward position overall – and while this piece may sound scathing, it’s not intended to be. If there’s been a fallout then Gerrard is having to do his best to keep it in-house and not bubble out – but as we said before, if Katic isn’t involved again at the weekend, it may just be the fire under the smoke after all.