When does a drama turn into a crisis? Is that what this is now?
With three players out of the game at the weekend, one almost certain to miss it and one more awaiting the results of a test and two not quite at full fitness?
What if all five are ruled out? What if we’re seven short?
Does it become a crisis then?
Amazingly, so long as five absences remains the extent of our worries, the answer is no. Because although all five of these players are regular starters in our first team, we have replacements for all of them. We have options should we need to leave them out.
Let’s take Elhamed and Bitton; both have played at central defence in the last month.
Bitton looked as if he was going to be a big player for us there in this campaign. But they were only there because Christopher Jullien has been injured. With the big Frenchman back, we don’t need either of them to play out of position. Where they’ll be missed most is the bench.
That’s not a minor matter, of course; it is good having those options amongst the substitutes, should they be required. But barring an injury during the match, you’d think our subs would be used for most offensive purposes on the day.
Missing Eddie will be a major blow if, indeed, it turns out that he isn’t going to make it. But if Albian Ajeti is fit then he’ll play instead, and he’s already shown an eye for goal that makes him a formidable weapon. Griffiths seems like he’ll be ready. We know Klimala is.
Where things become difficult is if Jullien and Ajeti aren’t ready. Seven first team players out would be an enormous hurdle to overcome for any team … but actually,– you could devise a starting eleven which would still be pretty potent even in the absolute worst case scenario that we were missing Elhamed, Bitton, Forrest, Edouard, Christie, Ajeti and Jullien.
We would almost certainly have to go four at the back; Taylor, Duffy, Ajer and Frimpong. We would revert to the midfield two of Brown and McGregor. We would play Rogic or Turnbull as the attacking midfielder. We could put Elyounoussi on the right and use Laxalt on the left; he can play as a fullback and as a winger if the need arises. With Leigh Griffiths as our sole striker I think we’d be reasonably confident with that team.
Alternatively, we could put Elyounoussi on the left and play Klimala on the right as an inside forward; that would give us two finishers up there along with a creative option, and play Laxalt at full back instead of the young Scot.
Where we would look painfully short was the substitutes bench; there’s not much scope there for having to change the direction of the game should the need arise.
But still, that we could put out a perfectly respectable, perfectly capable, and highly dangerous starting eleven is not even up for debate. This is a testament to how strong we are … and that should be a warning to the rest of this league but to the Ibrox club in particular.
They underestimate us at their peril.
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