This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Andy Halliday struggled as a makeshift left-back in the League Cup win over East Fife, adding to Steven Gerrard’s problems in that area of the park.
Halliday has often played as a left-back in the past 12 months, but his poor performance on Sunday against the third-tier outfit will give Gerrard a defensive headache.
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Unlike the rest of his back four, Gerrard is short on quality on the left-hand side. With captain James Tavernier nailing down the right-back slot, and Nikola Katic and Connor Goldson starting the season brilliantly in the middle, the left-back slot is the last real question mark hanging over the Ibrox club.
Borna Barisic has himself struggled to play the role with any sort of consistency since signing last summer, but Jon Flanagan has returned to full fitness and might be Gerrard’s final roll of the dice for the problem spot.
To write Halliday off and cancel the left-back experiment after one poor display would be foolish. Yet, it did show that a club with ambitions as lofty as Rangers shouldn’t have to rely on such a square peg in a round hole. While his adaptability makes him the perfect squad player, the notion that he can be a consistent performer from left-back in the biggest games has surely been quashed after Sunday’s disaster-class against third-tier opposition.
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Similarly, Barisic hasn’t played enough and when he has he’s been crucified by fans for his hapless defending. Despite becoming a mainstay of the Croatia squad since coming to Gerrard’s side, he hasn’t shown enough in the Light Blue jersey to merit a consistent starting role.
That leaves just Flanagan. A right-back by trade, but with Tavernier securing that spot, he’s had to adapt to a role on the other side of the pitch.
His more defensive style could be the perfect foil to Tavernier’s marauding runs and penchant for goals on the right though, with the former Liverpool youngster well known for his knack of flying into tackles and crunching opposition wingers, and rarely seen as someone who is going to drive forward.
A far more consistent, sturdy and reliable force than the other two, Gerrard will need to keep Flanagan fit as he goes in search of his first piece of silverware as a manager. If not, it’s only a matter of time before one of the underwhelming duo of Barisic and Halliday makes a costly mistake that damages the club’s trophy chances.