After being labelled a “nightmare” by former Celtic defender Mark Wilson, is James Tavernier a defensive concern for Sunday?
Tavernier is in his third season at the club after arriving in 2015 under Mark Warburton. The right-back has become a reliable figure down the right-side for Rangers, with his bombing overlaps a constant thorn for Premiership defences.
The Englishman also has terrific crossing ability in his arsenal, an extremely useful tool that Rangers have benefited from on many occasions.
However, question marks have consistently been posed about the 26-year-old’s defensive inefficiencies. These have been thrown into the spotlight once more after comments from Wilson in the Scottish Sun.
The former Celtic full-back believes his side can exploit Tavernier down his side once more, and called him a “nightmare” when defending.
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Defensive, I think he’s a nightmare. I don’t think he has any passion for it to be honest. The equaliser for the third Motherwell goal showed that he didn’t care enough about his man, especially when that was big Peter Hartley. It always looks like he’s desperate to go forward. You need to do your job first and foremost – he lets the side down in that respect.
Rangers supporters aren’t likely to care much for what Wilson has to say. However, there can be arguments for what the former Celtic and Dundee United full-back is talking about.
Time and time again, Rangers captain Tavernier suffers from defensive lapses. Despite being one of the most athletic and forward-thinking full-backs in Scotland, the former Wigan man struggles when tracking back.
His defensive frailties were there for all to see against Motherwell on Sunday. Twice he allowed his marker to drift away from him from set-pieces and net. In effect, it was the difference between a convincing win and a draw.
Yet, going up the other end, Tavernier put in a sensational ball for Kyle Lafferty’s second equaliser. Therefore, the English full-back showed his positive and negative aspects at Fir Park in one full 90 minutes.
There is the option that Gerrard pushes Tavernier higher up the pitch. This could make sense given that the position suits his attributes perfectly. It also adds another body to that position with only Daniel Candeias as a natural right-sided midfielder.
However, with Eros Grezda close to signing, that would appear unlikely.
It’s an aspect Gerrard will have to keep an eye on, especially heading into Sunday’s match. Many of Celtic’s goals against the Ibrox men in the past two years have come down Tavernier’s side. The issue is that the’s one of the best plans of attack against Brendan Rodgers’ side. His deliveries have cause Celtic huge problems in the past, and they’ll have to be used again on Sunday.
There’s little doubt that Tavernier will start at Celtic Park. Rightly so. However, he has to be extra wary of the space he leaves behind him this time around.