So I’ve looked back at the goalkeepers and the full backs, leaving only the central defence to cover in what was our collective ‘defence’.
The defence from the get go has seemed more assured but on occasion has been made to look incredibly ordinary. Injuries and at times questionable starters have all played their part.
Connor Goldson – Came in last summer and immediately seemed to form a solid foundation for a central defensive partnership with Nikola Katic. Connor was a mainstay in the defence for pretty much the entire season and was the one consistently picked. Good in the air and strong in the tackle, he is however not the quickest and struggles with balls over the top against pacy forwards, although admittedly most central defenders do. His passing isn’t the greatest but he has chipped in with a few goals this season. His form didn’t really become patchy until Katic was swapped for Worral and you could go as far to say he looked a nervous wreck at times. This saw a poor December bookended by vital victories at Tynescastle (where he scored) and finally beating Celtic at Ibrox.
Played with an injury in the latter and in the second half of the season it looked as though it still bothered him. Again seemed far more assured when Katic returned to partner him, which coincided with a string of victories with clean sheets. Again another who is guilty of backing off until it’s too late. It will be interesting to see what Gerrard does with the defence moving forward into next season. 7.5/10
Nikola Katic – Young, raw, powerful defender who looks to have plenty of potential and who started the season very strongly. He had his hairy moments but all in all he could justifiably feel aggrieved at being left out when Worral was brought in on loan. Rumours of his attitude away from the training ground and that he liked the nightlife were abound. Whether there is any substance to this I do not know. Quicker than Worral and poses a goal threat at the other end, scoring quite a few goals in the early part of the season from set pieces.
Katic does have a tendency to lose his bearings when tracking back and is at times exposed which in turn leads to Goldson having to cover, exposing Goldson’s lack of real pace should a ball be played over the top.
Gerrard has subsequently admitted he may have been wrong in leaving Katic out as long as he did in preference of Worral. What the real story was with all this I do not know. 7/10
Joe Worrall – Brought in on loan from Nottingham Forest and almost immediately puts a black mark against his name by his less than positive comments about being at Rangers as opposed to Forest. Nevertheless Gerard would play Worral for a large part of the season. A decent centre half that if he stuck to defending would be ok. Again, he sits off far too often. Good in the air and physically strong. His on the ball ability is questionable and he was caught out a few times this season and though he got away with it a few times his error at Kilmarnock, a game which we were coasting, allowed Kilmarnock back into the game and our performance derailed incredibly. Perhaps unfairly made the scapegoat as the entire team were pathetic from the second we lost the first goal.
Whether or not there was a clause in his loan agreement that stated he had to play x amount of games, I do not know. Gerrard did seem very loyal to him for large portions of the season when the crowd were vocal in wanting Katic back in the side. After playing a lot of games, Katic came back in to replace him towards the end of the season and the defence looked far more assured for it. Goldson in particular looked far more relaxed and confident. Perhaps we had met the quota of appearances required as part of the loan deal? I wish the big guy all the best in his future endeavours but I’m not too sad to see him leave. 6.5/10
Gareth McAuley – the experienced Northern Irishman was brought in for cover and as source of advice in the dressing room. Played occasionally doing well at times but his best days have long since passed and he never really got a look in for the majority of the second half of the season due to injury and others being higher up the pecking order. I do wonder if he was brought in first and foremost to be a mentor to our centre halves? I’ll give him a 6/10 as I’m a sentimental chap at heart. A massive congratulations on his MBE too.
Well that rounds it up. I know Ross McCrorie will have been played at centre half on occasion but he is seen as a midfielder now and that is why I haven’t included him in this series of notes.
On the whole there is no question that the defence has improved. Could it realistically be improved further? Yes. Too many times this season in games where we should have been goals up (missing sitters) we would leak one chance which the opposition almost supernaturally seemed to always score from earning a draw. The vast majority of these draws are games we should have won easily, and even a few less draws could have seen us champions against, let’s be honest, a very ordinary Celtic side. We improve on that and I feel we will have a successful season ahead.
That simple eh?