Genk’s draw in Switzerland got us thinking on Ibrox Noise: just how ready are Rangers for the Champions League?
While fans point rightly at the priority of 56 this season, not a single supporter would be happy seeing the club dumped out of Europe in the painful way it happened last campaign. Sure, we colossally strode past Union Saint then PSV to secure a massive Champions League prize, but that was the peak of the whole season. After that gigantic night in Holland, Rangers’ entire season was downhill. Sad but true.
And let’s not forget it was off the back of £15M spent on Ridvan, Colak, Davies, Matondo and Tillman, with ultimately none of these properly working out. So just spending money doesn’t guarantee success.
Which is why we do urge caution. Yes, it looks like we’re spending up to around £20M this summer on Lammers, Dessers, Cifuentes and Danilo with maybe Auston Trusty being a very welcome bonus too, but this isn’t any certainty.
So… we ask again, how ready are we for the Champions League/qualifiers.
If you remove the right-hand side of the rear spine of the team, the answer is very.
With the amount of talent in Ridvan, Souttar, Balogun, Yfeko, Raskin, Cifuentes, Cantwell, Lammers, Danilo, Dessers, Roofe… there is enough there for sure to offer a good fist when either Genk or Servette arrive in Govan.
But that right hand side is a HUGE concern – James Tavernier cannot/will not defend, and Connor Goldson isn’t up to the Champions League in general. Before you argue at the loss of him v Liverpool, we’d already shipped 8 goals in 3 matches in the group stage of the Champions League before he got injured – it was the lack of decent sub that cost us even worse v Jurgen Klopp. Leon King? Come on! And Goldson’s rubbish at that level so he and Tavernier are a deep worry.
A side like Genk or Servette will love a year-older Tav or Goldson – if Hamburg could exploit Tavernier and the right with ease in a friendly, can you imagine what could happen in the third round of the UCL?!
Now, there’s a mitigating factor – we got past Union Saint then PSV at this level with Tav and Goldson in tow. But there was a massive difference. Despite how we got destroyed in the group phase, Giovanni van Bronckhorst was a very defensive-minded coach – boring as hell to watch last season before he left, but in the qualification phase, his tactics worked. They protected the rear and Tavernier wasn’t bombing forward with gay abandon. Well, not as much.
But now? Michael Beale is way more cavalier and he will take a lot more risks, using Tavernier to do so. It will leave the back door exposed even more, as we’ve seen in preseason.
We are worried about that side, and that side of things, so we’re not going to deny this.
But in terms of the ins, they are promising – the squad and side looks promising. It’s just a pity it has a gigantic weak spot that opponents are 100% going to exploit.
The question is whether the rest of the team can compensate for that failing.