Gordon Strachan has suggested during BT Sport’s coverage of the Scottish League Cup final (broadcast on 8/12; 17:19) that Rangers boss Steven Gerrard will reflect that he got his substitutions wrong during the latter stages at Hampden Park.
The Gers somehow did not win their first trophy under Gerrard on Sunday. Rangers were dominate against Celtic, but Christopher Jullien – who, admittedly, was in an offside position – was the only player to find the back of the net.
In truth, Rangers looked as though they probably would not have scored had they continued playing for another hour. Fraser Forster made a number of brilliant saves – including one from an Alfredo Morelos penalty. But the Light Blues were also wasteful at times.
Gerrard used all three substitutions. Jermain Defoe was the first brought on for Glen Kamara, and Brandon Barker followed soon after with Joe Aribo going off. The last change came about due to injury with Filip Helander being replaced by Nikola Katic.
None of the changes worked however. Defoe and Barker made little impression on the game. And Strachan suggested that the Rangers staff may have to question their own decision-making following the agonising defeat.
“I think he’ll analyse that, the last 30 minutes,” he told BT Sport while talking about Gerrard. “What did we do? Were the substitutes right? Because we ended up there with Barker out here playing wide, and then Ryan Kent in the middle of the park just when you think Ryan Kent can go and take people on.
“I think the coaching staff will look back and think, ‘were we doing the right things at the right time?’. And that’s it. What they did before it, everything was right from the coaching staff. But then they’ve got to look and say what happened in that last 30 minutes?”
TBR View: Gerrard made two understandable changes, but one glaring mistake
Overall, it would be harsh to be too critical of the changes Gerrard made. It would have been baffling had Defoe stayed on the bench. And the Rangers boss may have felt that the Gers would be better off having Katic up for set-pieces than one of the other substitutes.
Sheyi Ojo has come in for a lot of criticism since moving to Ibrox. It would have been a gamble to throw the Liverpool loanee on. But he has got the ability to change games – even if Rangers fans have not seen that too often.
Ojo may have been a better option than Barker. But perhaps the most glaring error Gerrard made was not using Greg Stewart. Stewart scored twice after coming off the bench in his most recent appearance.
Meanwhile, Barker had not played for more than a month before Sunday.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But perhaps Gerrard’s decision to bring Barker on instead of Stewart may be the one call that he should be kicking himself over.