Steven Gerrard’s strategic plan with Rangers has been clear because since quite early on in his reign – get the full-backs wide and high to influence the game in attacking areas.
While it took a while to kick into gear, once Borna Barisic settled into Scottish football the effect was crude.
While teams could double up on James Tavernier’s side and funnel play down the left to fight his rampaging caliber, the Croat’s stunning form meant any team embracing such a strategy are leaving themselves wide open to his likewise swashbuckling forays.
Rangers suddenly appeared a much more balanced side and so they started racking up Premiership cup and points wins in a rate which was much improved from Gerrard’s introduction year.
All looked rosy in the garden until the Ibrox men’s season careered off the rails following their destined to become notorious Dubai break.
Many have pondered the many problems that could have led to such a substantial collapse.
Wild social media rumours are the order of the day but perhaps the truth is something much blander.
Club captain Tavernier missed the first four matches of the year after an appendix operation while Barisic has missed the past three national ties.
This forced imbalance at the Ibrox guys has knocked them off their strategic axis and further evaluation of the club’s poor results this year indicates that draws and loses tend to coincide with the lack of one of these important men.
Rangers have suffered defeats to Young Boys, Hearts and Kilmarnock, in Addition to Celtic from the league and in the Betfred Cup final.
However, Tavernier and Barisic only played in two of those games – the last gasp loss to the side and the Fraser Forster miracle show that edged Celtic into the year’s first trophy.
Barisic and Tavernier have played 30 times this year, winning 24, drawing four and losing two. That’s an 80 percent win rate compared to 64 percent with no all-action pair working in tandem.
It seems that for Rangers to get their season back on course domestically and keep their European form, they may want to wrap their full-backs in cotton wool.