It’s patently clear to anyone who watched yesterday’s match and didn’t fawn all over Firminho, that Rangers were completely equal to Liverpool in the first half, and Connor Goldson’s injury entirely changed the shape of the game.
Can we just be clear on the impact losing him made?
His partnership with Ben Davies was actually looking very, very good, and he and Davies had made plenty of blocks, interceptions and clearances for Rangers, with both hitting around 75% passing level and attempting a lot of long balls. It was a duo that was working.
But his injury changed it entirely. Rangers lost an experienced CB who was starting to get a real rhythm alongside Davies (himself having a superb first half) and had to replace him with a boy who only had 3 starts in a Rangers shirt.
Sorry, but how with any sense can anyone blame the manager for that?
We can moan about the pathetic transfer window, yes, but on the night, the reality was replacing Goldson with King and utterly rupturing the defence.
Liverpool themselves, the start of last season, their defence was an absolute shambles even before Van Dijk’s season-ending injury, and they lost 7 goals as well at Villa – easily forgotten.
The fact is it wasn’t just Goldson’s injury, it was disrupting a defensive partnership that was working so so well up to that point.
Blunt reality is without losing Goldson Rangers could well have taken something from that match, not just because of him individually but because of the loss of the defence as a whole.
True, McGregor wasn’t having a very good game and was extremely shaky all night, making no saves worth anything the whole evening, but Goldson and Davies were protecting him pretty well.
Then that gets split up, and a completely new partnership has to replace it, with a combined number of starts between them totalling less than 10.
Excuses? We’re making excuses? Yes, in a sense we are, but we’re explaining the basics of football that if you remove your defence and put on a youth player with little experience against Firmino and later Salah, sorry, but you will struggle.
It’s basic football mathematics.
This doesn’t excuse some of the absolutely rotten displays, particularly Tavernier, Barisic, Jack and Kent, but it does show the consequences of pitting an 18 year old and a 26 year old who’ve never played together up against the best strikers in the world.
It’s just basic stuff.