The final part of my player analysis series on Steven Gerrard’s new signings for Rangers covers the forward line in the Scottish Premier League. What additions did he make and who was a roaring success or unmitigated disaster as Rangers looked to challenge for the title? We will use tactical analysis to analyse the Rangers squad ahead of the new season.
When Steven Gerrard took over, Rangers had been keeping pace with Celtic on the goal scoring front. Alfredo Morelos, Josh Windass, Jamie Murphy and James Tavernier were the main contributors. Windass was to leave for Wigan and his goal contribution needed to be replaced.
Tactical Analysis – Jamie Murphy
Rangers took up the option to buy Jamie Murphy from Brighton, given how well he’d performed on loan it was a no brainer. Murphy only started a handful of games before rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on the artificial turf at Kilmarnock. He was looking sharp and maintained his chance creation form from the previous season. Hopefully, he will return to pre-season fully fit and ready to go. A double-digits goals and assists season await if can stay fit.
Kyle Lafferty – 5/10
I feel sorry for Lafferty. His work rate in games hasn’t been a problem. If anything, he has been trying too hard. There was a run of fixtures that defined his season and ultimately has led to him being deemed surplus to requirements. When Alfredo Morelos was sent off against Aberdeen on the 5th of December, Lafferty was finally going to get his chance through the middle of the attack.
Lafferty had been going through a lean spell having started with four goals in his first few weeks as a Rangers player. His first game without Morelos, against Dundee, Lafferty scored a perfectly good goal but it was ruled out for offside, costing Rangers the three points. He would hit the post; the bar and goalkeepers would make great saves in his next few games.
His confidence never recovered and he wasn’t really seen again after Jermain Defoe arrived in January. His expected goals are around 10 for the season which shows he’s either missed good chances or keepers have made decent saves. Lafferty has never been prolific. A goal every three games is his best return for Rangers. I’m not sure what we were expecting to be honest but I also don’t think he’s been as bad as some have made out.
Umar Sadiq – 1/10
Played one game. Should’ve scored. Dived for a penalty. Got a yellow card for diving. That’s about it really.
If, and it’s a big if, Sadiq didn’t dive and stroked the ball into the empty next against Aberdeen, I don’t think his performance would be criticised as much as they have been. He held the ball up well and brought others into play. He won his share of free kicks against physical centre halves too. It was, after all, his first game of the season remember? Obviously didn’t settle or integrate with the rest of the team or work as hard as Gerrard would’ve liked in training. He was gone not long after the final whistle of his only appearance.
Eros Grezda – 2/10
Never sign a player that hasn’t had a pre-season because of injury. He was unfit when he signed and you could argue never achieved anything near match fitness. Unlike Borna Barisic, who has shown flashes of his undoubted talent, Grezda has only one decent appearance to his name. The 7-1 demolition of Motherwell where he scored a double.
Hopefully, Grezda’s international status will allow us to recoup the money spent on him. He just hasn’t settled. Ironically, the shape that Rangers changed to at the end of the season probably would’ve suited Grezda. I doubt we’ll see him again in a Rangers shirt.
Ryan Kent – 9/10
If we get him back we win 55. For those saying his statistics weren’t good enough need to analyse his style of play. He causes carnage, creates space for others, wins free kicks and has looked impressive in a more central role behind Jermain Defoe. Also, the opposition don’t particularly like him. When you cause the same player to go off “injured” twice, you know you are doing something right.
To address Kent’s goals and assists statistics. He could’ve created more but he is often involved in the build-up play to create the assist, secondary assist and key passing statistics are just as important in his role. As for his goal scoring, he could easily have reached double figures this season. Without a settling in period, selection consistency and even more quality around him, I think he’s capable of double digits goals and assists. His numbers this year back that up. Fingers crossed he returns for one more year, it certainly isn’t for the lack of trying from the current Rangers squad!
Jermain Defoe – 8/10
If we’d signed him in the summer would we have been celebrating number 55 this year? Who knows but his impact, once he gained match fitness, he has been outstanding. Defoe has benefitted hugely from his own professionalism, to be sharper than players 10-15 years younger says it all. Think Kenny Miller but with positional sense and a goal scoring threat. A system that has two more central players supporting him has shown what he is truly capable of. His partnership with Scott Arfield has been a joy to watch. Intelligent players make the game look easy.
If Morelos departs Rangers, is it ideal to have a player of Defoe’s age leading the line? No. Is a player of Defoe’s quality perfect to lead the line? Absolutely. The striking department is where Rangers really need to get recruitment perfect this summer, especially if Morelos leaves.
With Jordan Jones, Jake Hastie, Sheyi Ojo and Greg Stewart all signed or about to sign, Gerrard has made plans for the future and the present. Hastie and Jones are tailor made for the 4-3-3 shape Gerrard adopted earlier whilst Ojo and Kevin Stewart are more suited to the narrower 4-4-1-1 shape used in the last run of fixtures. Horses for courses and all that.
Possible new arrivals have included Andre Gray, Daniel Sturridge, and Josh Magennis. A full spectrum of talent. As a left-field suggestion, Wilfried Bony is available on a free, 30 years old and with experience of football at the highest level. He has a similar style of play to Morelos and would offer decent competition to Defoe. Whether or not he’d buy into Gerrard’s philosophy is another question though.
The big question will be around Morelos, whether or not he stays. If he stays, we need a back-up forward, if he goes we need a new starter to compete with Defoe.
It’s going to be an exciting summer for Rangers fans, the first in seven years where a total rebuild hasn’t been required. Three to four players of genuine quality are needed. Less, if the services of Kent and Morelos can be secured for one more, potentially glorious, year.
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- Scottish Premiership: Rangers v Kilmarnock – Steven Gerrard’s tactical development - August 8, 2019