Rangers‘ latest Champions League drubbing has laid bare the Old Firm side’s current defensive fragility, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men having shipped 16 goals in just four group-stage games already this season.
That shaky defensive unit – which also conceded four against Glasgow rivals Celtic a few weeks ago – was exposed to brutal effect in Wednesday’s shambolic loss to Premier League giants Liverpool, with the Anfield outfit hitting seven following a remarkable second-half showing.
The game had in fact been level at the break following what was a bright start from the home side at Ibrox, with centre-back “colossus” Connor Goldson – as dubbed by The Athletic’s Jordan Campbell – having been up to the task against a dynamic opposition forward line.
The 29-year-old’s subsequent withdrawal due to injury ultimately played its part in the Gers’ downfall after the break, with the former Shrewsbury Town man expected to now face an extended period on the sidelines.
That significant blow will likely see 18-year-old starlet Leon King handed a more prominent role moving forward, although despite the teenager’s obvious talent – having been linked with a move to the likes of Manchester United and Newcastle United of late – he is still far from the finished article, notably looking “miles off it” against the Reds, according to writer James Black.
The youngster’s promotion has come about amid long-term injuries to the likes of Filip Helander and summer arrival John Souttar, while makeshift option James Sands has looked unconvincing in the backline when deployed, having been dubbed a “problem” by pundit Mark Hateley earlier this season.
Such a shortage of options has likely left Van Bronckhorst ruing his decision to allow veteran giant Leon Balogun to leave the club over the summer, with the Scottish Premiership side having opted against offering the 6 foot 3 brute a new deal.
The 34-year-old had previously been an important asset since his arrival from Wigan Athletic back in 2020, racking up 65 appearances in all competitions during that two-year spell, scoring twice and laying on three assists.
The “immense” presence – as described by pundit Alex Rae – had been tipped to stay at the club by former Scotland international Alan Hutton, with the latter man stating that he was “surprised” that the Gers hadn’t attempted to re-sign the central defender, with it having seemingly been a “no-brainer” to do so.
The Nigeria international has since gone on to join Championship outfit Queen’s Park Rangers on a free transfer, keeping three clean sheets from his five league games for the R’s thus far, with his average match rating of 7.06, as per SofaScore, the fourth-highest among Michael Beale’s squad.
The latter man had seemingly been keen on a reunion with Balogun after previously working with the player during his time as Steven Gerrard’s assistant at Ibrox, with Beale recently lauding the “significant” impact that the one-time Brighton and Hove Albion man has made at Loftus Road.
Amid the current injury crisis that has engulfed Van Bronckhorst’s side, the Dutchman may well be kicking himself at having not kept the reliable defender at the club.