RANGERS' stay at the top of the Premiership table was brought to an abrupt end on Sunday afternoon when Steven Gerrard's side ground out a draw against a stubborn Hearts team at Tynecastle at the weekend.

Celtic's 6-0 hammering of Ross County the previous day meant that Rangers required a win to move back to the top of the standings but the Ibrox club had to settle for a share of the spoils as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Craig Levein's side.

Hearts' solitary goal arrived early on in the first half, courtesy of a defensive howler from the visiting team captain James Tavernier. Despite being the last man back, Tavernier decided to attempt a diving header on the turn to deal with a wayward ball forward and made a pig's ear of it. Jake Mulraney's snap shot was palmed away by Allan McGregor, but the Rangers goalie could do nothing as Ryotaro Meshino's composed finish was chipped into the net.

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Tavernier received his fair share of criticism in the aftermath of the draw, with some Rangers supporters venting their frustration in the full-back's performance. This wasn't the first time that their captain had cost them in an important fixture and going by current from, it will not be the last.

Costly errors

Out of the five goals that Rangers have conceded in all competitions since the 3-1 win over Midtjylland at Ibrox back in August, Tavernier has been directly responsible for at least three - and arguably four - of them. There was the slack pass at home to Celtic where he gifted Mikey Johnston possession, who promptly set up Odsonne Edouard to open the scoring. Later in the same match, it was Tavernier who was nominally marking Jonny Hayes as the Irishman burst forward on the counter-attack to seal the win for Celtic.

There were the two errors against Young Boys in Rangers' most recent European outing that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and then Sunday's misjudgement that kept the Ibrox club in second place for another week at least.

The common theme in all of these incidents is that they have arrived during crucial points of key games. On each and every one of these occasions, Tavernier handed the opposition a foothold in the game that ultimately decided the final outcome.

Attacking threat?

As a thoroughly modern full-back, Tavernier's defenisve inconsistency could perhaps be justified by his offensive output. In previous seasons, this has been hard to argue with. After all, the Rangers captain finished last season with 17 goals and 17 assists in all competitons: a remarkable return for a player who is nominally, at least, a defender.

However, it does not appear likely that Tavernier can be relied upon to provide a similar level of output this season. When we examine the 27-year-old's stats over the last few years, there is a noticeable decline in many key metrics.

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While the number of passes - and their accuracy - that Tavernier attempts in each game has remained more or less constant over the last three seasons, both the number of crosses and dribbles that he attempts in each game have increased. However, concerningly for Gerrard, Taverniers' success rate in both of these metrics has dropped year-on-year.

No other Premiership right-back hits more crosses than the the Englishman, yet almost all of these players have a higher accuracy rate. Similarly, Tavernier attempts more dribbles per game than his contemporaries yet only has the tenth-best success rate in the league; behind the likes of Ross County's Marcus Fraser and Livingston's Nicky Devlin. No right-back hits more passes than Tavernier, yet the Rangers captain is slap-bang in the middle of the league's performers in this regard.

Defensive concerns

When we dig into Tavernier's defensive stats, the results make for concering reading for Rangers fans. There has been a considerable drop-off in the number of defensive duels, aerial duels, headers and interceptions that Tavernier averages this season compared to previous campaigns, but this could be accounted for by the fact that Rangers are dominating their opponents more regularly this season. We would expect Tavernier to have less to do, defensively speaking.

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But as well as attempting fewer defensive actions per game, Tavernier is also performing them with less success than in previous seasons. His defensive duel success rate has fallen by nearly 10% compared to last season and is frankly average compared to other Premiership full-backs. To be fair, though, Tavernier has vastly improved in the air overall - the full-back's aerial duel success rate has risen by nearly 20%.

There is no question that Tavernier is generally struggling to replicate his form from previous seasons and a possible reason for this could be a degree of complacency drifting into his game. As club captain, Tavernier is undoubtedly aware that his place in the starting XI is safer than most. And the Englishman also surely benefits from the fact that Gerrard has few other realistic options. Matt Polster was brought in as Tavernier's understudy in the first-team squad but the American has featured so rarely that it is difficult to say whether or not he could genuinely challenge for Tavernier's place. Since moving to Ibrox in January, Polster has just 220 minutes of competitive first-team football under his belt.

As it stands, Tavernier will likely retain his place in the Rangers first team. But high-profile errors continue to mount up and there will surely be a point where Gerrard decides that enough is enough. Whether that means giving Polster a run of games to see what he is capable of or turning to the transfer market when it reopens in January, action will need to be taken eventually. The Rangers captain is consistently harming his side's chances of winning in key games and there is no question that he is failing to perform to his usual standards.