While we discussed Rangers listening for offers for Antonio Colak, there is still a chance the Croatian maestro could get a reprieve. Let’s make no mistake, until November, Haaland aside he was the most on-form on-fire striker in Europe – no one matched his numbers both domestically and in European competition, far less exceeded them, and yet he still didn’t go to Qatar.
So, statistically, he was exceptional, till he got a very untimely injury and a new manager.
It’s been downhill fast, in some ways, and yet not in others.
Let’s look at Goalak, and try to understand the problems some fans have with him.
The main issue the sceptical Rangers supporters have is he isn’t Alfredo Morelos from 19/20. The on-form Colombian was a handful – a top scorer in Europe and in the condition of his life. The Lille bid soon followed.
Now, in those fans’ heads, that Morelos is the perfect striker – strong, fairly quick, good target man and can score.
In their heads, Colak cannot do this – he can score but nothing else.
And yet, this is not quite accurate. It is true that Morelos has a superior game when it comes to possession and holding the ball up, and that it is more natural to him – the stats, domestically, confirm his superiority in most of these areas.
But Colak can do this stuff too, just not quite to the same extent, and compensates that with a staggeringly natural finish which leads to goals galore, if given the proper opportunities to bury them.
Look, we all lost the plot with his goal return under Gio over the first few months. The man was on his way to being one of the greatest strikers we’d ever seen at Ibrox, just like Negri all those decades ago. And like Negri, it fell apart after the light burned so bright.
The fans back then singing his name are the same ones that today want Morelos to stay and would choose the Colombian. It’s just the way it is.
The thing is, under Michael Beale, Antonio Colak still has 3 goals in 5 starts, one assist. That is still an excellent return for a striker unfavoured by this manager.
So what do we think?
Bottom line is Gio got the best out of Colak by playing to his strengths. Gio is and was a much better tactician than Beale is, even taking into account his dreaded horseshoe. He was able to get the best from Colak by feeding him chances wide, getting Tav and Barisic to overlap Kent or Tillman, and have a regular supply of width and balls into the box – Colak would come deeper to help but ultimately it worked because of his world class movement.
This the bit where some fans accuse the German-born Croat of laziness, of not working or moving – everything he does is off the ball – it’s why he pops up in the right places, to get on the end of crosses or through balls.
Morelos just doesn’t have the same ability – he does move, but in his case he’s doing so to drag defenders around, making space for others, and he’s also significantly short on finishing ability compared to Colak.
In many ways they’d actually have been a great duo, had Morelos been interested in staying and Beale interested in trying it.
But the reason Colak ‘looks’ lazy is because his game is about off-ball runs, getting in the space – it’s not that visual, and he won’t get on and dominate the ball in the same way.
The issue really is Michael Beale’s inability to, or refusal to accommodate his game. He could easily set his team up to feed Colak and get goals, but Beale is as stubborn as most previous managers and isn’t interested in changing his own system to get the best out of the players. Gio showed what we can do with Colak, but Beale is a different manager.
He believes his system is key, and he’ll adapt the players instead. And that’s why he’s always preferred Morelos. Even if Morelos is and was no longer interested.
So it ends up being down to the manager. And Michael Beale has not really shown any major interest in Colak and using him to his strengths.
We are aware Colak supposedly has injury issues, but he’s only missed 12 games this season ‘through injury’ – only 5 of those were definitely injury, we do not know about the other 7.
As we said before, despite all this, the Croat still has an excellent 3 in 5 for Beale from starting, with an assist – still a better return pro rata than a disinterested Morelos. Colak has never scored as a sub as a Rangers player.
So even despite Beale’s system not really helping him, Colak has managed to secure an over 1 in 2 rate for this manager when we talk about starts.
So where does it leave Colak in the end?
We can’t see Beale changing. He will surely still sell Colak, because Colak doesn’t fit what he likes in a striker in his system.
Despite Colak, at his best, being an absolutely incredible striker who can score for fun, Beale doesn’t care much.
But then, a lot of fans share that disinterest in the Croat as well, and would be happy to ship him out. They seem to disregard his achievements earlier in the season, and talk him down as useless, because, well, that’s what fans do when it suits them.
But time, as always, will deign what happens with the former Malmo man.