Yesterday, we discussed Filip Helander, and the notion of giving him a second chance.
We have to say, the majority of responses were deeply negative towards the Swede and wanted Nigeria’s Leon Balogun in instead.
The overriding notion was that Helander is slow, shaky on the ball and that Balogun is quicker, calmer and more reliable.
We were slightly concerned by this response.
Balogun, while a fine defender, has made plenty of gaffes as a Rangers player. He’s shown vulnerability (ask Callum Hendry), he’s been caught out aerially many times and he’s even been spared by the width of a post scoring own goals.
Helander, this season, has been nearly imperious. His stats outweigh any other stopper Rangers have this campaign, and but for one display v Benfica (in which he was still statistically our best defender) he’s barely put a foot wrong in 20/21.
Which is not to smear Balogun for doing so, we think he’s an excellent defender too, and we were thoroughly gushing of him when he made his first couple of jaunts in our shirt.
But the fact fans have turned so aggressively on Helander, following that one night in Lisbon, is frankly disloyal.
Both defenders are great, and both of them deserve to be supported equally. Both have different strengths:
Helander is excellent for blocking, tackling, and reading the game positionally. He is solid at the brute force aspect of the game.
Balogun has great pace, calm, leadership, composure on the ball and is an imposing figure at the back.
And they have weaknesses:
Helander is slower, and not as easy on the eye in possession.
Balogun gets caught out for position a lot, and has been done aerially quite a few times.
What are we saying?
Both are top defenders, and both of them have strengths and weaknesses.
Both of them fight for the space next to Goldson and for some matches Balogun is the better call, and others it’s Helander.
But we’re not keen on one bad night at the office being held against Helander, and whoever the manager picks is, for us, the right call.
We’re happy with both, and Helander does deserve to be part of the equation.