“Not the worst” – Rangers hero could learn a lot from 2018 Gerrard signing…

“Not the worst” – Rangers hero could learn a lot from 2018 Gerrard signing…

We saw an interesting comment lately defending James Tavernier. And before we go further, this is not an article designed to smear the guy, but to constructively analyse. The comment suggested that his defensive lapses were by design, that Steven Gerrard ‘must’ be instructing him to play that way.

That his being caught high up the pitch constantly is because his manager is guiding him to play like that. Because he wouldn’t play any way his manager didn’t tell him.

On the surface this seems a fair point – insurrection in football would surely just lead a player to being dropped, no more no less.

However, it misses a couple of more subtle points we feel compelled to highlight.

First off, this is ALWAYS how James Tavernier played. Under all managers he’s had at Rangers (and at the last count it’s four) Tavernier has always been high up the pitch and frequently in no man’s land for counters. So, in fact, to claim this is down to Steven Gerrard betrays a lack of memory over Tavernier having been like this from the moment he signed for Rangers.

Secondly, and this is the bit we touched on some days ago – if Borna Barisic can do it, can attack and defend with equal balance, quality and discipline, why Tavernier’s inability (or is that ‘refusal’) to do so defended with such vigour?

Ever since the Croat hit form in our shirt, he’s been the textbook example of how to be an accomplished fullback – discipline, defending, attacking, balance. Rarely has he been caught napping, and he’s frequently seen tracking runners.

This is not to say Tavernier doesn’t do any of this – he’s not the worst defender around (far from it) when he’s actually in position, it’s just that his less prolific nature of it is always justified by his biggest fans as being instructional. That it’s his manager’s fault.

For all our articles critical lately of Tavernier’s defending (all as a result of his nightmare in Berne) we do appreciate the good stuff he does – indeed, we’ve been very vocal in stating that fans in general take his attacking qualities for granted and we’d be much weaker without his width on the right.

But Borna Barisic’s growth at LB shows why Tavernier’s regular absence from defensive discipline on the other side shows the Englishman probably only really has himself to blame for being caught off-guard so much.

But, we will say this – his continued selection suggests the manager feels his weaknesses are a price worth paying for what he offers positively.

And in truth, we don’t oppose that.


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  1. Are you claiming that SG approves or not of Tavernier playing in an advanced role? If you are saying he doesn't, Tav has always played like this, then that is very weak leadership by SG which seems unlikely. If SG approves, then the fact that Tavernier did it before is irrelevant. SG has to decide if that is the way he wants Tav to play. All players have to convince new managers. If SG doesn't like it, Tav changes or Flanagan/Polster comes in.
    Your point about Barisic is fair. LB at Croatia, losing WC finalists, is better than someone never within a mile of England team even if he keeps ex England RB on the bench. BUT, you say Barisic manages to do both. I will agree when he has a season like Tavernier in terms of goals and assists (pens aside of course). Much as I like Barisic, it is a bit soon to decide, as it was last year to condemn.
    Your summary, that SG thinks Tav's contribution is net positive, makes the preceding article a little redundant, although still fun.

  2. I do agree with ScotsWhaHae. I would say that it's 100% certain that Tav is playing most of the time in an advanced role because that is what Stevie wants. There have been a few occasions under Stevie when Tav has not advanced much during a game, rather been restricted to mostly defensive duties, which would suggest that he is following SG's instructions.
    Barasic currently is looking an extremely good player, offensively and defensively. Hopefully he can now perform at this level on a consistent basis, which will be a massive boost for Rangers. He just needs to do it on a consistent basis for a bit longer to prove he is the player we all hoped he would be when we signed him. But, as we all know, one bad game and there will be supporters shouting for him to be dropped…

  3. IN I think both your arguments are a bit weak.
    Firstly I think ALL of Tavernier managers have identified his attacking qualities as important to the team and have been happy to work with him on that basis. This leaves gaps in behind but they obviously felt the gains outweighed the risks. So Gerrard hasn't decided this on his own he has simply been happy, like previous managers, to use Tavernier best qualities and take the risk on the defensive side.
    Secondly, up until very recently we haven't seen those attacking/defensive qualities you referred to from Barisic. Sure he is performing much better now and I'm confident he has turned a corner but let's wait a wee bit longer before reaching any conclusion. I also believe we use Tavernier a wee bit further forward than Barisic so direct comparisons are a bit unfair. Barisic tends to overlap, fire a cross in, then run back into position. Tavernier tends to get more involved in some of the more intricate work around the penalty box.

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