Rangers Need Tight Defence Before Thinking About Success

Rangers will hope to put the humiliation of the Europa League behind them today as they start their Scottish Premiership campaign against Motherwell at Fir Park.

Gers fans will be keen to see if improvements have been made, while opposition supporters will also keep an eye on the game to see if Rangers are any better this season.

One key improvement will have to be made if Rangers are to perform better this term and that’s their defensive unit.

Manager Pedro Caixinha came into the club and instantly recognised that he needed to build new foundations at the back.

To give you an idea why the defence needs to improve, last term Rangers conceded forty-four league goals in thirty-eight games. That was significantly more than champions Celtic and Premiership runners-up Aberdeen.

In just four Old Firm games Rangers conceded thirteen times! That’s simply not good enough.

They had a weak centre and the full-backs (especially James Tavernier) didn’t do enough defensively. When the backline is dodgy things ultimately go wrong. The fans sense the nervousness as do the opposition. The team then hit a slump, panic and sit further back, lose concentration and bang lose a goal!

It looks like Pedro has brought in two fellow Portuguese compatriots to shore up his defensive unit.

First off you have experienced international defender Bruno Alves.

He’s a big, strong dominant centre-half and Rangers have needed a player of that ilk for a while. His age and winning mentality should help those around him and he’ll be the one you’d imagine that talks through his teammates and will demand high standards at the back.

Alves is also known to be a bit of a hot-head and can be rash in the tackle. But that actually might work in his favour. The Gers fans will love his fiery attitude and it will intimidate opposing forwards. His first outing against Celtic this year will certainly be interesting.

Beside Alves, I imagine Fabio Cardoso will get the nod from Caixinha.

At twenty-three years of age, Cardoso will no doubt look to Alves’ experience to help him settle in a new league. The Portuguese former youth international arrived from Vitória Setúbal in a £1.3m deal.

On paper he should compliment Alves. Fabio has a bit more pace, is a bit of a thinker and is certainly not as aggressive. It will probably be harder for him to get used to the Scottish style but if he can dovetail with Bruno at the back then it could provide Gers with a strong working defensive partnership.

The early signs look good with Fabio Cardoso recently saying:

“We are improving game by game, step by step and we are ready for Sunday.

“I have no words [about Alves]. For me, he is very good, one of the best defenders of my country, he is very experienced and very talented.

“I know and I feel that I will learn a lot with him. For me to play with him is very good

The Gers boss will also have Danny Wilson and David Bates to call upon if and when they’re needed.

Wilson has plenty of Scottish top flight experience and I think he’d actually show real promise if he gets chances to play alongside strongman Bruno Alves.

While Bates is a youngster who impressed towards the end of last term, he still has a lot to learn. In that regard I don’t imagine he’ll see plenty of game time this season if everyone stays fit but the hope is that he develops just training alongside Wilson and Alves.

Captain Lee Wallace and James Tavernier will be the usual full-backs. Not a problem going forward but both need to make sure they get back and get tackles in when the opposition have the ball. They cannot leave too many gaps and certainly can’t allow players that they are marking run past them continually. Lee Hodson is a consistent back-up at full-back and could offer more defensive assurances than Tavernier in the bigger games.

It will be interesting to see if Ryan Jack or Jordan Rossiter will sit in front of defence. They offer different styles but whoever it is needs to make sure they protect the backline and fill gaps whenever needed.

If Rangers can tighten up at the back then they will certainly be better than they were last year. Mark Warburton didn’t concentrate enough with his defence and it looks like Pedro Caixinha has at least spotted the problems.

But has he done enough to turn the defensive unit around? Well only time will tell and our first chance to judge will come at Motherwell today!

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