It’s hard to dispute that Rangers have missed some bite since Lassana Coulibaly has been out of the team.
The man Gerrard described as a “destroyer” is an important physical, athletic presence in the team. He can also play a bit and acts as a dynamic enforcer in midfield. Since he’s been out, Rangers have looked lightweight and ineffective in the middle of the park.
But the nine times capped Malian international is set to make a timely return against Dundee.
And Rangers need it to start getting points on the board.
A driving force in Gerrard’s pressing side
Coulibaly’s athleticism played a leading role in Rangers good early season form. Leading from deep, Coulibaly charged up the pitch like a bull at times, with and without the ball.
More than just display the effectiveness of his role it also drives other midfielders alongside him. Coulibaly raises the standard and energy of Gerrard’s high pressing midfield, but it also allows other players to focus on their individual roles.
Ryan Jack’s “perfect” performance against Maribor was alongside the midfielder. Ejaria aside – a player who wouldn’t be expected to replace Coulibaly – Rangers’ midfielders have missed this freedom.
He fulfils an essential role in the team and Rangers don’t have effective cover in that holding midfield position.
A big miss in big matches
Speaking specifically about the Old Firm, Coulibaly is the perfect match for the fixture. It’s physical, athletic and demands hard graft and no-fear. Scott Brown would’ve been sleeping easier the night before knowing he wouldn’t be coming up against the on-loan Angers midfielder.
But there are other games Rangers have missed him. The brutish Motherwell wouldn’t have been able to impose themselves as physically with Coulibaly in the team.
His absence has been a huge part of the unfortunate, stuttering start in the league. Rangers quite simply have no-one to replace that combination of physicality and technique.
In the two domestic games he has played, Coulibaly did the running of an extra man after red cards in each game. He won the man of the match against Aberdeen and arguably deserved the same against St. Mirren.
It was in Europe we saw the best of the midfielder – but we need him fit and challenging on home soil to mount a serious title challenge.