Regular readers of Ibrox Noise know we’ve been struggling with Ovie Ejaria. While we acknowledge his technical quality, his composure on the ball and his trickery with possession, we had massive reservations about his vision, assists, and decision-making.
While the latter three is maybe still up for debate, there is no denying his performance yesterday v Spartak was his best in a Rangers shirt, and for the first time truly showcased what the lad is capable of being.
Sure, he still looked utterly miserable, but his play was inspired. If he wasn’t dribbling through three players, he was flicking his way past another. If he wasn’t spreading play wide, he was trying to play it forward. His composure on the ball and speed of thought is starting to come through now, and while he still does need to work on creating chances and being more productive in the final third, we have a growing admirable of what he’s doing deeper.
Yesterday he played as part of a roaming two with Lassana Coulibaly – he was mostly central, and when Spartak had the ball, Coulibaly switched into defence mode and retreated, leaving Ejaria as the central pin Rangers could use to hold the ball up. When on the ball, Couli advanced and played alongside the Liverpool loanee, and this switch of tactics for the Malian allowed Ejaria to dictate play in a way he’s threatened to do before, but never been able to realise.
We haven’t even mentioned the defensive game Ejaria is starting to excel at too. We have rarely seen a harder-working central midfield display than this one – it reminded us of Arfield at his pomp when in ‘hard graft’ mode.
Ejaria shielded the ball dozens of times, he turned several players, made countless amounts of space, and intercepted the ball many times. He even tackled. Yes, he did get a few little fortunate breaks, but this is football not science.
While we’re not saying we’re completely sold on him yet, he’s starting to look something like the real deal now. The missing factor from this creative playmaker is that creative playmaking – as a midfield general, however, he really does look like he’s capable of pulling the midfield strings now.
He’s one player Rangers have that we can trust on the ball, and while he will lose it now and then, more than once last night he worked hard to get it back.
Ejaria is developing, into what kind of midfielders we’re not 100% sure, but when he’s delivering against opposition of this standard, it bodes well.
We just wish he looked happier about doing it!