We know we’ve banged on a lot recently about James Tavernier, and believe us, it gives us here at the site little pleasure to criticise any Rangers player, but if there are failings, we have to call them, and our captain’s fallacies against Young Boys and Hearts clearly played a huge part in costing us 5 points of 6 in those matches.
One comment we’ve had in defence of Tavernier’s weaknesses has been his statistical output. Staunch backers of the former Wigan man point out his assists and goals last season were stunning, and they direct critics to those as a counter argument.
The problem is, this argument is completely baseless.
Yes, Tavernier’s stats were brilliant last season, and this season he’s produced 3 goals and 8 assists, in all competitions, and you’d have to be a fool to dismiss this.
The problem is that even his own manager is criticising his attacking output and his defending is evidently costing his team mates.
His stats are one thing, but there’s a painful predictability to his delivery – when he attacks he does one of two things – he either touches and goes to try to get behind the defence, or he crosses early and from deep outside the box, unerringly close to the halfway line.
And when it comes to defending, unless he has a match-fit Ryan Jack to bail him out, he will be left wanting and exposed for being too high up the pitch at pretty much all times. And, for that matter, even if he does have a match-fit Ryan Jack regardless the same applies.
And if Rangers are to have success tonight against Porto, Tavernier needs to be far more like Borna Barisic – the Croat is the model of how to play the modern FB role. He considers when to attack, when to defend – he takes few risks, tracks runners, and reads the play around him.
With all due respect, there’s a reason Borna Barisic is a first-pick for Croatia while England have never even considered Tavernier. And Croatia are a much better NT than an admittedly still-impressive England.
Our point, after rambling (hopefully for the last time for a while) about Tavernier again, is simply thus:
Don’t point to his stats of last season or even this season as a justification as to why it’s ok that he just cost us 3 points v Young Boys or 2 against Hearts. That’s like letting Alfredo Morelos off with his red cards and not being upset with them last season because he scored a lot of goals.
We hope Tavernier can learn to play the complete FB role, quit the errors, and tighten up his attacking play. Otherwise there may come a time when his bad outweighs his good and Matt Polster will have a real shout to start.
If he doesn’t already have one.