The issue of a striker up front for Rangers is one which has frankly been such since the halcyon days of Nikica Jelavic and Steven Naismith.
Not since 7+ years ago have Rangers fans been blessed with the quality of attack up top that those two provided, with goals in abundance and support play of the highest order.
However, the realisation is certainly dawning on many fans that while ideally a new striker remains prevalent, the quality of Alfredo Morelos and Jermain Defoe suggests it’s not as urgent as it seemed even recently.
Let’s look at the hard stats:
25 appearances, 14 goals. Over one goal in two. An outstanding return. 7 assists, incidentally.
98 appearances, 55 goals. Over one goal in two. An outstanding return. 21 assists, incidentally.
It has become abundantly clear that Rangers have two superb strikers who deliver a greater than 50% strike rate, and help out with assists as well.
And while Alfredo remains the first-pick on paper, the reality is he and Defoe are now completely dead even on selection. Manager Steven Gerrard has confirmed that now, that both strikers are equal billing, and going by the stats and contribution, you can’t argue with it.
Defoe doesn’t have the strength or nuisance factor of Morelos, and lacks the power, but Morelos doesn’t have the movement, maturity or clinical finishing of his English colleague.
They both compliment what each other doesn’t have, with either selection being a valid one depending on the opponent.
Will Rangers be up against a packed-in defence which will require intelligent movement to find space and clinical finishing to soak up few chances, or will they be up against a more open one which will require power to speed past and expose vulnerable defending? Will it be one with giant physical defenders that needs muscle to beat, or one with more modest but wily ones that a mature and smart mover can exploit?
Steven Gerrard has two strikers to fit many occasions and Defoe’s form is testament to that becoming a serious option.
Of course, what neither of them offer is the ‘Andy Carroll’ – the big tough centre forward who soaks up everything in the air and can use pure physicality to bully his opponents. But who has enough skill to hold up play alone. The ‘Daniel Cousin’ if you like. That type remains a vacancy.
But we have to say Defoe’s hat trick yesterday and Morelos’ brace showed both are now equal in terms of first choice, and depending on the opponent, either/or will be used.
And we have to applaud Gerrard’s outstanding man-management here – he’s managed two extraordinary feats:
He seems to have calmed Morelos down just a bit this season – he still has his moments but so far they’ve been much, much less and he seems to be maturing a touch.
And secondly, he’s managed Jermaine Defoe so well that despite not being the absolute first choice striker given his career CV, he’s perfectly happy to play equal billing with Morelos even though he left Bournemouth to get plentiful first team football. And the name Jermain Defoe would have expected to play most matches.
Steven Gerrard made a boatload of errors last season, and still isn’t the quintessentially perfect manager (does he (or she) even exist in football?) but he does seem to be using the mistakes from last season as bedrocks of learning and progressing as a result of them. And one of those areas of progress is managing the striker situation with a lot of panache.
When both Morelos and Defoe seem completely content, you know you’re doing something right.