Bilel Mohsni must be ready to stand easy at Rangers

BILEL Mohsni is in danger of losing his regular place in the Rangers first team in the season ahead with the arrival of Marius Zaliukas at Ibrox this summer.

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Bilel Mohsni hit 12 goals from defence last term but his position is under increasing threat
Bilel Mohsni hit 12 goals from defence last term but his position is under increasing threat

Lithuanian international Zaliukas has experience of top flight football in Scotland with Hearts and of the second tier in England with Leeds United.

And it is widely expected that Gers manager Ally McCoist will play him ahead of his new team-mate Mohsni at centre-half during the 2014/15 campaign.

The 30-year-old reads the game superbly, distributes the ball intelligently and is widely considered to be the best option defensively.

With full-time clubs, including Hearts and Hibs, to overcome in the SPFL Championship the rearguard must be watertight and that was not always the case last term.

Yes, the Light Blues completed their League One programme without suffering a single defeat; the first time they had achieved such a feat in over 100 years.

But at times their play at the back left much to be desired and on occasion they had goalkeeper Cammy Bell to thank for maintaining their run.

That sort of slackness will be punished far more ruthlessly in the months ahead than it was in the past and the manager understands that only too well.

But that is not to say that Mohsni, who was taken to the hearts of Rangers fans last season, will be a peripheral figure at Ibrox in the coming campaign.

The French-Tunisian defender is set to play a key role in his club's push for a third consecutive promotion and a place in the Premiership.

Despite his suspect temperament, which resulted in him being booked on numerous occasions and sent off twice, he proved himself to be an invaluable player.

He is a considerable physical presence on the park and is outstanding in the air, both in his own penalty area and that of the opposition.

The 27-year-old is always keen to get upfield and complement his team's attacks whenever play allows - and enjoyed great success doing so.

"I have always liked to get upfield and try to score goals," he said.

"When I was younger I preferred to play up front to defending so it comes naturally to me."

Indeed it does. The 12 goals he plundered from defence were absolutely crucial to his side's cause.

How his manager must wish his other defenders and midfielders could pitch in with as many.

His most important effort was the last-gasp and hotly disputed header he nodded home in the Scottish Cup quarter-final against Albion Rovers at Ibrox in March.

With his team trailing 1-0 to the part-time minnows, McCoist threw the former Ipswich and Southend player up front in a desperate attempt to salvage a draw. His gamble paid off.

It was the only occasion that Mohsni, who played as a winger, a striker and a central midfielder at Southend, was given a run in the side in attack.

However, he will be a useful man for McCoist to have on the bench given his versatility and should still get a fair amount of game time, even if it is as a substitute.

Few opposition defences have an answer to the 6ft 3in player hurling himself at corners and free-kicks as they are floated into their penalty box.

Mohsni said: "I was very happy with the number of goals I scored last season. My target was to score 10, but when I got there I then went for 20. I always try to contribute to the team in this way."

Rangers rounded off their pre-season tour of Canada and the United States with Lee McCulloch and Mohsni playing in the heart of the back line due to Zaliukas picking up an injury.

And with Championship, Challenge Cup, League Cup and Scottish Cup matches all to be negotiated in the next nine months he will start his share of matches.

McCulloch and Zaliukas will be doing well to avoid injury, illness and suspension and Mohsni will be a more than capable deputy for them when they do drop out of the side.

Football

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