Monday, 1 October 2018

OPINION: Dr Jekyll and Mr Morelos

We cover Alfredo Morelos more on Ibrox Noise than we would perhaps like to. The focal point for Rangers’ attack, manager Steven Gerrard made it clear early on in his reign that the recent Colombia debutant was a player he not only admired, but loved, and he was explicit in calling the ex-HJK Rangers’ best player. ‘Arguably’.

So there’s certainly a lot of ground to sum up when it comes to the 22-year old hitman and yesterday’s disappointing display from him (and many others of course) is the latest chapter in the rollercoaster that is his career, and while we never quite know what we’re going to get with Alfredo, we want to be fair to him.

He had a slow start to life in Govan – struggling terribly in Luxembourg, looking disinterested, slow and clumsy, Morelos didn’t really get going till the visit of Hibs to Ibrox deep into August, which led to a five-match burst of goals and his sudden rise in stock. He appeared to become free-scoring and Ibrox Noise’s predictions of him being Rangers’ Dembele seemed bang on the money.

But then the first Old Firm happened, and Morelos’ blank in this one (Craig Gordon pulled off a stunning save to deny a header) led to a huge drought of nothing in 8 matches and Morelos didn’t score again till December.

However, that goal v Ross County sparked him back to life and while his rate wasn’t scintillating, it was pretty good up till the split - 8 in 17 is a reasonable return. A young striker in a new country won’t be too downhearted with that.

However, then the big matches came hard and fast and frankly Morelos struggled – he posted just one assist (no goals) in the five hardest games, and got himself suspended for the final trip to Easter Road.

18 goals, 43 matches, and 8 assists. It is far from failure, but when we look at the nuances of it, he’s rarely delivered in big meaningful matches and never against Celtic.

This season, following two windows in a row of transfer speculation controversy, his performances have been much the same as last season. His profile has been boosted by his Colombia cap (if not his display) and Morelos remains pretty much the same player.

That is to say he works hard in the 10 position for his team – he wins fouls, drags defenders away, creates space, and provides a physical threat and significant nuisance factor. His touch is often poor, however, and his use of the ball, even outside the box, can often be patchy at best and terrible at worst.

Then we have him inside the box – the hard team work outside it seems to often become a distant memory and he shoots wildly, frequently missing by a mile or, more often, being easily blocked by defenders.

His goals this season (in all competitions) are exactly the same rate as his strongest spell in the SPL last season – 8 in 17 with an impressive 4 assists and a less impressive five bookings and two red cards.

There’s a strong argument to be made that he has technically improved – same rate of scoring but managing a couple in the UEL qualifiers which is a more impressive feat. And his value has clearly gone up significantly too.

However, there remain question marks over every aspect of his game, and even his attitude. His brand-new contract, despite the extension to 2022, was accompanied by yet another lack of long-term commitment to the club, saying only:

“I am delighted to have extended my contract. This is such a massive club and I want to be with Rangers for as long as possible."

‘As long as possible’ – that could be January (!) Morelos has never committed himself in words to Rangers for the long term, and he never will. In signing the deal, he did the right thing in guaranteeing the club has good bargaining power and will get a big transfer fee for him, and we applaud him for that.

But the player will continue to divide supporters down the middle – even individually. We go from loving Morelos to grinding our teeth over him. And this happens far too much for it to be normal.

When Alf is in the mood, with good attitude, and plays at his best, he is a 100% asset to the side – but the Hyde side of him, like yesterday, and the red cards, and the petulance, and the shooting aimlessly… we can do without it.

It’s just a shame he doesn’t seem to be shedding that unwanted side of his game as he develops. Same time line as Dembele, but simply not the same level of player for Rangers the Frenchman was for Celtic.


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