With nearly 10 signings in the bag, Rangers have effectively acquired a new team this summer. The likes of Dorrans, Pena and Alves have come through the metaphorical entrance at Ibrox while a handful plus have gone out in the other direction, but we still do not really know what shape the team will take next season.
In later episodes in this series we shall look at defence, defensive midfield and attacking midfield, but for now we will start at the front. You could argue we are going the wrong way around but we like to be a bit different here at Ibrox Noise!
So, a number of key questions about the front end of the pitch:
Will it be a striker pairing? If so, who?
Will it be one man up top? If so, who?
How much of a role will Kenny Miller play in this area?
Are Rangers done with any more acquisitions for there?
Let us start with the first question. It is something we have not really seen at Ibrox since the days of Prso and Novo; a reliable wee duo who free-score and tee each other up. The concept usually relies on contrasting qualities – a big man and a wee man. A fast man and a slow man. A strong man and a leaner one. Prso and Novo were reasonable examples of this, and of course back further in the day McCoist and Hateley nailed the notion. Alex McLeish’s formations were sometimes debated – he could use a 4-3-3 in the form of Buffel, Prso and Novo up top, or sometimes 4-4-2, but that definitely saw the best of the 2 especially during the brief spell when Pistol Pete and Buffel combined for a time and the former became the country’s top scorer.
But in recent times we have seen it less, not just at Ibrox, but in modern football. So, what would we expect this season at Ibrox under Pedro? Well so far he has stuck rigidly to a one up front, but Rangers do currently have the numbers for a two if the Portuguese elects for it. Whatever we think of the quality of the various players, the options are Alfredo Morelos, Eduardo Herrera, Kenny Miller, Martyn Waghorn and Joe Dodoo.
Of those five options, there really lacks any obvious two who would fit. Waghorn is surprisingly not strong enough to be the big man in a pairing, nor does he score enough goals. Dodoo has never really been tried in a duo before, so that one is an enigma. The lad can score given the chance, but can he link up? It is hard to judge Morelos and Herrera on any level so we can barely even include them in this, while King Kenny is unlikely to be a long-term solution who will start every match. In short, a partnership is unlikely to be the solution.
So, moving onto the second question, a one up top then is most likely. Who is best at being a hold-up centre forward, who can dominate the defences best? Well, again, it is tricky to analyse the new guys, but from what we fleetingly saw, Morelos is neither strong enough on the deck nor mobile enough to do the job on his own. He seemed to win a few aerial balls though, which counts in his favour, especially for link up play. But it is whether he can offer more than that, which is a tad essential. Reports online describe him thus:
“Off the ball Morelos is very hard working and is the sort of striker that will defend from the front and try to win the ball back for his side. There are times when his frustrations get the better of him, for example when playing against HIFK he kicked the ball away after feeling he had been fouled, but like many strikers, the aggression that he shows definitely enhances his game. His physicality is a large reason why he is so hard to deal with. His pace, power and strength are the framework from which he plays the game. This physical attributes allow him to hold the ball up before bringing a team mate into the game, to run past opposition defenders and to make sure that he is able to do those things all game. He isn’t the tallest, standing at 5 foot 9 inches, but he has a good leap and is certainly no pushover in the air.”
This comment appears to suggest what we saw in our shirt was not Morelos anything like at his best. And hopfully that bears fruit.
As for Miller, Kenny’s days of running the line all season alone are behind him, simple as that. He cannot do that by himself long term now, while Joe Dodoo has all the running in the world but we just do not know if he is strong enough to hold play up. He can score, but less known is how good he is in the air.
And last Herrera – we cannot judge this guy at all from a 13-minute cameo in Luxembourg.
Now for the Kenny Question. Do we turn to him for our striking needs? The boy can and always will score. He works harder than almost anyone else and leads from the front. But while short term he will run the line alone as hard as anyone, is he a long-term option? Surely not, as we mentioned before. He could be the partner in a duo, but who do you link up with him. No one sticks out of the other four. Not immediately anyway. It does seem Kenny’s future at Ibrox is behind the striker as part of a three, or if part of a two, being the second striker.
And lastly are we getting any more signings? Truth is we have signed two strikers and we have to give the new guys a chance to prove themselves but at this point in time the five we have are slightly slim pickings. We hope Morelos picks up from his disappointing debut in the UEL tie, and we cannot even remotely judge Herrera’s qualities yet, but right now the only known quantities up front are Kenny and Martyn – we do not even know Dodoo that well given he barely played last season and he is not a Pedro man. And no one new has appeared on the horizon recently albeit there is still plenty time for that change.
It will probably have to be a one up front, not Kenny, and it is unlikely to be Dodoo. Waggy simply cannot do that job on his own. That leaves Morelos and Herrera. We cannot discuss Herrera at all, and Morelos struggled for mobility in both legs. But he is the man Pedro has put his money into, and going by that report is the most appropriate for the task. He is likely to be first choice.
The question is whether he is the right choice. Time will tell.