Mark Warburton eloquently articulated what his Rangers side should look like after Friday night’s draw at Kilmarnock.
“We move the ball quickly, with quality, we create chances and go forward.”
Unfortunately, with his highest profile and probably highest paid player in the team, that isn’t happening.
Four league games is too early to judge any newcomer to the Scottish Premiership so Joey Barton should be cut a bit of slack in that regard.
But the evidence so far does not suggest Barton and Warburton’s Rangers are going to be a neat fit.
Barton demands the ball and, with a personality as forceful as his, he gets it.
But after it gets to him it isn’t getting shuttled around with the quality and direction that Warburton would be happy with.
It was an awful, potentially career-ending tackle that forced Barton off early at Rugby Park but it actually helped the Rangers manager out.
He was able to substitute a player who wasn’t having the desired impact with a ready-made reason.
It won’t always be that way, though.
In this form – and with the other options Warburton has available to him – Barton doesn’t deserve to start.
Whether the manager has the strength to stand him down, the implications of doing so and the implications of ducking it are all issues Warburton would not have expected to face this early in a Premiership campaign that could quickly get away from him.
* Rene Higuita must curse his timing.
Had the Colombian been born 20 years later he of the Wembley ‘scorpion kick’ and the mazy runs out of defence would currently be making Manuel Neuer look like a goalkeeping luddite in an age when sweeper keepers are in vogue.
He’d probably be Manchester City’s number one.
By and large, Pep Guardiola has been hugely impressive in his first couple of months in the job at the Etihad. He’s managed to make Raheem Sterling look like a player again which in itself makes him a managerial great in my eyes.
And he’s been decisive. Very decisive.
With Jose Mourinho, the king of early impacts, across the city, Guardiola doesn’t have time to give everybody a chance and ease himself into a new footballing culture. His mind needed to be made up quickly on his squad. There is deadwood at his club, he’s identified it and it will be cut adrift.
Joe Hart couldn’t be described as deadwood but I wouldn’t argue with Guardiola’s conclusion that there are better goalkeepers out there than Mr Head and Shoulders. It’s the message that a number one’s feet should be prioritised over his hands that I can’t sign up to.
When the back-pass rule was introduced in the 90s, there were keepers who understandably struggled to adjust. But the generations that have followed have all had to get used to having a ball at their boots much more often than their forebears.
The Neuers and his like aren’t actually doing much more than the Harts and his like. They hold a higher line and pick an early pass but they’re not going past two men and nut-megging centre-forwards.
Surely a coach of Guardiola’s pedigree could help his keeper pick out his left-back and be in a starting position to intercept a through-ball.
In Claudio Bravo, whose ball-striking has been likened to Ronald Koeman, City could now have the best footballing keeper in the Premier League but the shortest and least physical one.
It’s a trade-off that may cost them and really didn’t need to be made.
* Giving a player one last cap pre-international retirement in a glorified testimonial a few days before a World Cup qualifying campaign may seem a bit peculiar.
And in normal circumstances, I’d say that it shouldn’t happen.
But if anyone deserves to be made an exception in Ireland, it’s Robbie Keane.
It will be cap number 146 for a footballer who has carried on playing for his country long past his peak, and the Republic have benefited from it.
Contrast the 36-year-old Keane with the 31-year-old Scott Brown.
International football shouldn’t be about deciding you’ve had enough when you’re still near your best, it should be about carrying on as long as possible until the manager hasn’t got any need for you.