Grading centre backs will always be much more of a challenge than grading attackers. They…
The past few days have been a disaster for Rangers on and off the pitch. A drubbing from Celtic at Hampden was only the tip of the iceberg. We had Andy Halliday shouting expletives when he was substituted, Alfredo Morelos and Greg Docherty fighting in the tunnel and a dressing room bust-up. The latter has now resulted in Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace being suspended by the club.
It’d be easy to forget that before this Rangers suffered some more bad news; David Bates made the decision to move to Hamburg and will leave Ibrox in the summer. Given their abject defensive display at Hampden you have to wonder how much Rangers could regret letting the young defender leave.
The move is a damning indictment given that Hamburg are on the brink of relegation from the Bundesliga. In essence, Bates would rather play in the lower leagues of German football than remain at Ibrox. Moreover, Rangers were apparently “priced out of a deal” for the young centre-back. This must be extremely disheartening for fans given the development the player has made this season.
Similarly, it’s since been revealed that he was holding out for £7,000-a-week. You have to dispute where the club’s priorities lie when they can’t stump up that sort of cash for arguably their most exciting defensive prospect. This point is only compounded when you consider the significant sums of money that the likes of Bruno Alves and Russell Martin will be getting paid.
Just how much will the Govan club miss Bates? We decided to delve into the numbers to have a better look at how important he is to this current Rangers side.
The overriding point that should be made is that Bates has been without a doubt one of the few bright points of Rangers’ season. He was thrown in at the deep end against Celtic on his debut and instantly proved himself. Since then he’s shown himself to have bags of potential and is the kind of no-nonsense defender that Rangers are crying out for going forward.
The bottom line is that Bates is a player that is still developing. Rangers have put time and effort into making him the defender he is today and instead of trying to reap the benefits of that, they’ve let him leave the club. The first metric we looked at to measure Bates’ impact on the Rangers defence is defensive duels per 90 minutes.
As the graph above shows, only Ross McCrorie (8.17) partakes in more defensive duels per match than Bates (7.29). He’s closely followed by the now departed Danny Wilson (7.20) and, perhaps surprisingly, Fabio Cardoso (6.98). What’s most telling about this chart is the clear drop in defensive duels per 90 when it comes to both Alves (4.49) and Martin (3.81).
It can be argued this shows they aren’t combative defenders for Rangers as they don’t get close enough to their opponents. Furthermore, for both to be in so few duels of this nature means you’d hope their success rate would be significantly higher than their defensive counterparts, unfortunately for Rangers, this is not the case.
A similar story emerges when we look at how successful each defender is in their defensive duels. Bates has the best success rate of any Rangers centre-back (32.1%) ahead of Wilson (31.9%) and McCrorie (29.9%). Alves (29.1%) and Martin (27.5%) have the lowest success rates apart from Fabio Cardoso – let’s be honest the Portuguese defender isn’t the person you want to measure your performance stats against.
Simply put, Bates is arguably the best central defender at Ibrox when it comes to defensive duels. His absence will be heavily felt when you look at who is left. McCrorie performs well here but many believe he’s better suited to a defensive midfield role. Alves and Martin struggle in this area as does Cardoso (who just generally struggles).
Bates is also strong in the air. For someone so young he isn’t scared to throw himself about and put his body on the line. Unlike a McCrorie, who is better with the ball at his feet, Bates is a more no-nonsense defender who is good at the basics. Whether that’s taking part in defensive duels, winning tackles or being successful in the air as the graph below highlights.
When it comes to aerial duels per 90 Wilson (9.34) and Bates (9.07) once again come out on top by a significant margin. McCrorie is the best of the rest with 7.74 but he’s closely followed by Cardoso (7.53), Martin (7.52) and Alves (7.51). However, where Bates impresses once again is with his success rate.
Sure Alves has the best success percentage (78.03%) but he also takes part in noticeably less aerial duels per game than the likes of Bates. Conversely, Bates has a success rate of nearly 66%. In essence, this means the 20-year-old is not only involved in more aerial duels per 90 minutes than the majority of his teammates but is more successful in winning the ball too.
At this point, you also really have to ask why Rangers were willing to let Danny Wilson leave so easily? Now not for a minute is the suggestion that Wilson would have been the answer to all of Rangers’ defensive woes, but he’s undoubtedly proven to be more effective than both Alves and Martin.
Just to emphasise the above point. When we bring another metric into the mix, Wilson yet again impresses. He averaged 6.33 interceptions per 90 minutes which is more than any other centre-back at Ibrox. Simply put, letting Bates walk out the door has an all too familiar sense of deja vu.
It begs the question, what are Rangers thinking? Here they have a young defender who has bags of potential and is already out-performing some vastly experienced internationals in Alves and Martin. Instead of tying this guy down and trying to build a defence around him they’ve let him leave the club. What’s particularly bamboozling is that he wasn’t even asking for an unreasonable amount of money.