Rangers are about to experience life without John Lundstram for the first time tonight as the big midfielder sits Ajax out through suspension.
The ever-present, playing through the pain barrier, has been a fulcrum of midfield this calendar year, and ever since seizing his place in the side a few months after Gio took over, hasn’t been shifted. His performances this year have come under a bit of (absurd) criticism this season, with quite a few failing to grasp the struggles he has playing alongside Steven Davis, not to mention that aforementioned ongoing niggle.
But tonight Rangers will sample life without his huge presence in midfield, for unless Gio tries a wildly different system in the final group match, we’ll likely see James Sands and Steven Davis in midfield, and frankly that’s not a reassuring pair.
As much as Sands has gained a lot of favour for his recent displays, especially Aberdeen, we cannot see him enjoying life beside Davis in there, with the veteran NI international certainly reaching the end of his playing days and rather slowing things down while getting in the way as well.
So we are more than a touch wary not only of Lunny’s absence tonight, but of the alternative selection Gio has little choice in making.
Of course, it may well be Glen Kamara who mercifully has returned from injury and is included for this one – but he is behind in match fitness and his attitude on the pitch has been deeply questionable this season. So could it be him and Sands instead? Or all three?
The point is no Lundstram, and he’s been such a powerhouse this year, even if some fans started picking on him as a scapegoat in recent weeks. And those fans will get to see what it would be like not to have him in midfield with his being barred from this one.
Against a physically strong Ajax side, he will be a big miss, and it’s up to Gio figure out a system that will compensate for the loss of such a massive presence in there. If there’s one thing Gio has not done, it’s find a system to accommodate the UCL but as Derek says, he also kept the handbrakes on way too much.
He now doubly has to let the players off the leash while cultivating something which doesn’t seem midfield bullied.
Over to you Gio.