John Souttar has understandably come in for a lot of stick over a very bad backpass, which cost Rangers the third and definitive goal, but given he’s been effectively out the whole season, how do we sum up his performance?
The reality, unfortunately for those who want a scapegoat, is that while he clearly made a huge error there, the man he replaced, Connor Goldson, has made a tonne of the same clangers, especially against Celtic, and yet ‘we missed Goldson’?
Now, it’s not false that we actually did, but not in the way fans might think – Souttar’s performance was a lot better than he’s being given credit for, mainly because he’s a much more physical defender than the Englishman – he complimented Ben Davies far better, and Rangers had a more solid spine.
The conceded goals were all due to individual errors, and that’s stuff a manager cannot account for when it comes to explain or justifying a selection.
When we actually compare, directly, Souttar’s stats with Goldson’s (2-2) the numbers are interesting:
Clearances: Souttar 4, Goldson 5
Tackles: Souttar 1, Goldson 0
Blocked shots: Souttar 0, Goldson 3
Interceptions: Souttar 1, Goldson 0
Passing: Souttar 73%, Goldson 61%
Long balls: Souttar 8, accurate 2, Goldson 14 accurate 3
Touches: Souttar 61, Goldson 48
In short, those slaughtering Souttar and pining for Goldson might wish to take a look at these numbers. Souttar passed better in this huge match, his long balls were less wasteful, he intercepted more, he tackled more and he had more of the ball.
The only single place Goldson clearly wins is blocked shots.
The problem really isn’t the qualities or performance of Souttar, it’s how Rangers have been set up to rely on Goldson, NOT the fact Goldson is any good. Steven Gerrard signed and built Rangers from the back around the ex-Brighton man, a possession-based defence all about setting up transitions and plays from the rear.
But Goldson falls short of being a great defender in many many areas, and if it wasn’t for one truly poor backpass from Souttar, his Old Firm debut would have been roundly lauded. Because he was, like it or not, good otherwise. He was better than Goldson was in the 2-2.
The problem fans have is we’re so ingrained into Goldson, the club having had three managers in a row now who obsess over Goldson, that no replacement has ever been properly ingratiated into the team. No rotation, no plan B.
Instead of having Souttar ready to replace Goldson last year at Anfield, or, indeed, anyone, the club relied on a child. And this rotten substitute made supporters believe we ‘missed’ Goldson.
No, it exposed the shockingly short-sighted planning around relying on Goldson and building the whole team around him.
Souttar had a great game at Parkhead, but he’s a scapegoat because of circumstances biased in favour of Goldson.
The numbers do not lie – Goldson just isn’t that great, and if Souttar could stay fit he could and would be a far better partner for Ben Davies.
But what do we know?