Why Rangers need a changing of the guard at left back

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 13: Rdvan Ylmaz of Rangers during Cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium on May 13, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Callis /Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 13: Rdvan Ylmaz of Rangers during Cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium on May 13, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Callis /Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Rewind back almost 18 months to a night that most Rangers fans will won’t to forget. A 3-0 away defeat to Celtic saw the side relinquish top spot in Scottish Premiership and lead to a domestic spell of dominance for Ange Postecoglou’s side.

Whilst many fans will look back on that painful night as the personification of Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s approach to the Scottish Premiership, there was one moment in particular that angered fans to such a degree, that they called on the player involved to never pull on the Rangers jersey ever again.

That moment was Liel Abada’s goal in the 44th minute of that game, where he made up what felt like 10-15 yards on his marker to creep in front of him to make the game 3-0. His marker would go on to fall to his knees, with his head in hands realising the gravity of his error.

That marker, was the left back in that game. Borna Barisic.

Now let’s be honest, every player is allowed an off game, and mistakes can happen to the best of performers. John Souttar being a classic example, as he’s recovered from his error in the 3-2 defeat at Parkhead in April to having easily his best spell in a Rangers jersey.

When it comes to Barisic however, that moment was something that had became all too familiar a sight for the support.

The Croatian is the true definition of a confidence player. When things are going well for him and everyone around him, he is the perfect modern day full back you’d like in your team, with his assists numbers – 48 in 201 games for Rangers – are up there with the best of him.

However, when his head is down, he makes himself an easy target for oppositions. He stands off wingers to an extent that coming to Ibrox can feel like a crossing drill for some wide players.

He’s also incredibly prone to just switching off from the game entirely, like when facing Celtic in February 2022, and seems incapable of adapting his game and moving away from what he feels comfortable with.

Despite this, he remains a regular in the team last season, making a total of 29 appearances in the league, as he has been for most of his five years in Glasgow. He was also, strangely, a nominee for Rangers Player of the Year last season, but I think that just shows just how bad a season 2022/23 was all in.

Anyone reading this who doesn’t follow the club regularly will be asking why? How can he possibly keep getting game.

Borna Barisic
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – APRIL 30: Borna Barisic of Rangers in action during the Scottish Cup Semi Final match between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on April 30, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images) /

Well, looking at his first three years, his form actually saw him being on the verge of being sold if rumours are to be believed. However, he’d recover his form in 2019 and go on to have two magnificent seasons, which included being part of the defence that conceded just 13 goals in the title-winning season of 2021.

However, in the two years when his form has declined, he’s either seen his competitor for the jersey discover a rich vein of form at centre back in Calvin Bassey, or spend half the season injured in Ridvan Yilmaz last season.

When it comes to the Turk Yilmaz though, there is more to the story than just the injury. Up until he was subbed off hurt against Aberdeen in late-October, fans were calling out for him to be given a chance. Not just due to the hefty price tag he came in with last summer, but due to what we had seen and heard about him prior to his arrival.

After he was given a chance in the position after the split, there was a clear difference in how the team played from that area of the pitch. Yilmaz brought with him an aggression in the tackle and an ability to be multi-dimensional in how he brought the ball forward that felt like a breath of fresh air to watch.

The vast differing levels of quality was ultimately epitomised in the friendly recently with Newcastle. Barisic started the game, and gave Almiron the freedom of Ibrox in the first half. Yilmaz came on, and the team looked far sharper and gave the English side very little in the wide areas.

Granted, more than just Yilmaz should be credited with the improved second half display, but if Michael Beale really wants to keep being serious when it comes to revamping and refreshing this squad, then allowing Barisic, a great servant to Rangers in the overall pitch, to move on and usher in the next exciting generation of player in Yilmaz would be a real show of intent moving forward.