Further to our earlier analysis on Rangers’ formation, we promised a piece on one player in particular who we’d have to say stands as Rangers’ best player now.
It’s not Ryan Kent, brilliant though the winger is. It’s not Alfredo Morelos, even if he’s mischief when he’s at his best. And it’s not Niko Katic or Allan McGregor. It’s not even Scott Arfield, Steven Davis or a theoretical Joe Aribo once he finally gets up to speed.
No, by some distance Rangers’ best player, or certainly most important player, these days, is Ryan Jack.
As we covered earlier, Steven Gerrard’s system sees endless numbers of spaces opening up, and a reliance on others to fill those gaps, particularly on defence.
It’s that switch in philosophy from the more rigid 4-3-3 the manager used in the split last season that sees Jack become his most integral player.
Not only is the Scotland international excellent with the ball at his feet, and a hard worker off the ball, but he’s understands better than anyone the system Stevie uses, and how to fill up the spaces others leave – his grasp of these tactics means he gets on the ball far more than anyone, aside Tavernier, and added to his development as an attacking midfielder leaves him as the most important and arguably best player Rangers have.
His ability to keep the ball moving, to pick out simple passes and fill up the gaps in midfield and defence that others constantly leave means he’s utterly critical to how Gerrard wants to deploy this system.
No one else covers for their team mates as well as Jack does, and we haven’t even gone into his excellent defensive work which sees him pressing opponents and stealing the ball.
How many times have we seen Jack defensively as the last line and bailing out the group in front of him?
Or reading a play and getting there before anyone else, snuffing out its danger before it gets a chance to go critical?
Jack has blossomed the past year under Steven Gerrard – no one else has become the player they are today more than he, not even Alfredo Morelos – Jack’s game, coached by one of the best midfielders of all time, sees the ex-Aberdeen captain propelled into a situation of utterly gargantuan magnitude, and few Rangers players are appreciated by their team mates as much as he.
No wonder Steve Clarke called him up.