by Jack Morton
Rangers, much like last season, spent the whole summer transfer window upgrading and recruiting players as they geared up for their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football. The priority was clear. Rangers needed squad depth, quality, defenders and a proven goal scorer. It must be said that despite there not being a large amount spent on actual transfers (excluding Joe Garner £1.5m) Rangers did meet these needs and some.
They filled the needs required for the coming season and added youth to an already fresh team, with signings such as Jordan Rossiter, Joe Dodoo, Josh Windass, Matt Crooks, David Bates and at the same time bolstered the youth team with highly-touted prospects who claim to challenge to break into the first team. This is undoubtedly a positive for the club going forward as these young players must be seen as both investments and as players who in the near future or even in the present can offer Rangers great quality and energy.
On the other hand, the need for experience was obvious. In the Championship, it was a smart move to use a young and hungry squad, as it would give the younger players experience in Scottish football, as most were new and experience was not necessarily needed in the Championship.
Conversely, the need for experience upon the club’s return to the SPL was apparent as the young players needed coaching and leadership, and the team needed the experience of players such as Joey Barton and Nico Kranjčar to create a steady balance within the team.
Rangers not only added great experienced players but they also added cover for an extremely lean squad which produced a mere five substitutes against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final last season. Although the outcome of that game was a positive one, it was clear the club needed to add to the depth and cover of the squad, especially with thirteen players leaving on loan or permanently.
This will give player-by-player analysis and ratings based on how good the signings are taking into accounts such as; value for money, necessity and performances so far.
Matt Gilks (GK):
The necessity of this signing was clear, back up goalkeeper Cammy Bell was leaving and Rangers were in need of a solid and trustworthy back up to the number one Wes Foderingham. The signing of Gilks adds international experience to the squad and will provide able back up and potentially healthy competition to Wes further down the line.
Gilks is similar to the type of goalkeeper Rangers used to sign, a solid shot stopper and leader but not athletic or a great ball player. Unlike Foderingham who has the ability to make passes much like any midfielder would and acrobatic saves at the same time. However, this does not subtract anything from the quality of this signing and he was on a free transfer so is overall a great bit of business for both parties.
Lee Hodson: (RB/LB)
This could be a great signing for Rangers. It was evident that Rangers were in desperate need of cover for both James Tavernier and Lee Wallace, who were workhorses last season (Lee Wallace never missed a game). Not only does Hodson add cover, he also adds experience. Despite only being 24, Hodson has already become an International with Northern Ireland, had experience of Scottish football and a good deal of experience in English football.
Although lacking in skill in comparison to Tavernier, he has pace and is a fairly solid option defensively. From what we’ve seen so far, he has the ability to deliver good crosses and puts a tackle in. He signed for a minimal fee and therefore this should be seen as a great shrewd of business by the club.
David Bates: (CB)
Mark Warburton has made it clear that he wishes to add to the quality of the youth at Murray park and at the tender age of 19, David Bates is already becoming an extremely exciting prospect in Scottish football.
He won Young Player of the Year with Raith Rovers last season and in turn, won himself a loan move to Rangers.
The 19 year-old offers great height at 6″4 and already looks very strong in the air when challenging for the ball, judging from the recent u20s games. It is clear that he has impressed, having reached the first team bench several times this season, although this may change with the addition of Phillippe Senderos and the return of injured players.
Clint Hill: (CB)
This is a signing which for the most part baffles me. The need for a new centre half at Rangers was crucial. The centre halfs needed to have good experience to be able to help our mainstay young centre backs Rob Kiernan and Danny Wilson. However, the centre half, due to a small squad, needed to have the ability to play at a level similar or above that of those who where already there.
Clint Hill is not good enough for Rangers. He is slow, this is usually not a problem but when paired with Kiernan as he was forced to be against both Burnley and Kilmarnock, this is a huge problem as Kiernan often commits to tackles and challenges too soon and leaves the extremely slow Hill exposed and vulnerable. Hill’s strength is probably in the air but even then looks susceptible against opposition forwards.
I can understand why he was taking on in a coaching role but he simply isn’t good enough to be a Rangers player. He is not first team quality and does not offer any competition to Wilson or Kiernan and now Senderos, therefore to me, this is a complete waste of wages which could have been spent elsewhere.
Phillippe Senderos: (CB)
It is perhaps premature to comment on the ability of Phillippe Senderos, as we have yet to see him play in royal blue. However, this could be a solid signing in my opinion. He may not match up to the level of a Joleon Lescott or Adrian Mariappa, Senderos fits into our side perfectly and offers exactly what Clint Hill was supposed to offer: experience, first team quality, leadership and aerial prowess- a trait much needed at Rangers. It feels like every set piece gives us fans a stroke.
At the surprisingly young age of 31, Senderos has a lot of quality and experience to offer a hungry and young Rangers defence. Senderos has played in three world cups, with 57 caps for Switzerland and has an impressive pedigree of domestic clubs including Arsenal, AC Milan, Valencia, Fulham, Everton and Aston Villa.
With the team still gelling, I expect Senderos to help shore up the defence and give both Kiernan and Wilson a very professional and hard working role model to aspire to at the heart of the defence. Being a free transfer, this must be seen as a fine piece of business by the club as they look to solidify the defence.
Matt Crooks: (CDM)
The Matt Crooks signing was a signing which at first made me extremely curious. When we first signed him on a pre-contract in January, I thought this is just what we needed- a towering defensive midfielder with great technical ability and an attacking threat.
However, fast forward to the summer window, when we began to sign the likes of Jordan Rossiter and Joey Barton, my position on Matt Crooks changed as I did not see what his role could possibly be within the team.
Yet, as we sit four games deep into the season, I can see Crooks becoming a crucial player for us, despite not having made his full debut for us yet. This is because we have tried to play Joey Barton and Jordan Rossiter together. It doesn’t work.
That is where Crooks comes in. Let’s also make it quite clear that Crooks is not a centre-half and never will be. The Rossiter/Crooks partnership could be a key to unlocking the current midfield deadlock right now. However, bear in mind that this formation should only be played against tougher opposition with a runner such as Holt/Windass in front.
The introduction of Crooks may put the signing of Joey Barton in perspective. Crooks is an exciting prospect which offers Rangers even more height and physicality which we previously lacked and great technical ability and passing which will undoubtedly suit Warburton’s style of play.
Joey Barton: (CM)
I have no doubt in my mind that Joey Barton is one of, if not the most gifted players in the Rangers team right now. However, we have to look at this in perspective. So far this season, we have seen a very poor Joey Barton.
This is perhaps down to the fact that he is playing out of position, perhaps not. At centre-defensive-mid, he looks slow and constantly a yard behind the attacker. From what I’ve seen so far he has been at fault for 2 goals. He is not a defensive midfielder in my opinion. Has he got the ability to put a foot in? Yes. However, with the combination of him and Rossiter, there is very little physicality on offer. They are both fairly similar players in that they are constantly pests to attackers at their feet, both aren’t blessed with natural pace, but both have exceptional passing ability. The combination simply doesn’t work. But where do you play Barton?
We have tried to push him up to attacking midfielder. That didn’t work. It is certainly a case for worry but with the introduction of Matt Crooks, I feel we could see a different Joey Barton and a Rangers team returning to its original style of play. Time will tell, but I do fully expect Barton to kick on and perhaps raise his rating potentially up to around 9, as to me he seems slightly behind match fitness. The signing overall was a major coup for Rangers and it is still early days to judge a player of his caliber in a team full of fresh faces and riddled with injuries early on in the season.
Jordan Rossiter: (CDM)
Jordan Rossiter, without a doubt, to many Rangers fans is by far and wide the club’s best signing this summer. The ex-Liverpool player is quickly becoming a fans favourite and has shown great ability so far in the season despite formation difficulties. He has displayed an exceptional passing range and a very good attitude and commitment across the board. Only costing a compensation fee of £250,000, Rossiter was a complete bargain for the club and should be regarded as their best piece of business this summer transfer window.
In games so far he has looked confident on the ball and has not been afraid to put a foot in. My only concern is his tendency to drift out of games and become less involved than most others, perhaps down to the formation issues this season. Overall, this is a superb signing as his value has the potential of becoming exponential as he is a young English defensive mid which is currently a rarity. At 19, he is an extremely promising player and will undoubtedly become a mainstay in the Rangers team sooner or later.
Josh Windass: (CAM)
Personally, I believe this is Rangers’ most exciting piece of business this summer. Despite seeing him only on a couple of occasions, Josh Windass is one of the most exciting players I’ve watched play for Rangers since the times of Sone Aluko and such. He is extremely fast, has a great touch, fantastic skill on the ball, the ability to go by a man and be direct which is something we lack currently, fantastic shooting and surprisingly good physicality.
Since his knock early on in the season, many have forgotten about Josh Windass but in my opinion, I feel he will become a mainstay in the Rangers team this season at attacking mid, especially if we revert back to the old 4-3-3 system we played last year with one defensive midfielder and two attacking midfielders. Josh Windass, much like Jason Holt, has the ability to make superb runs into the box. He is extremely direct with the ball and possesses fantastic skill and technique. We have yet to fully witness the ability of Josh Windass but I believe he will be one of our best summer signings, and is a great piece of business at £250,000.
Nico Kranjčar: (CAM)
Nico Kranjčar is without a doubt the most technically gifted player in this current Rangers team. I have not once seen a player of his passing calibre play for Rangers in my whole life. What he lacks in pace, he makes up for in mesmerising passing, fantastic skill and great composure. He also doesn’t have a bad shot on him either.
The problem so far this season has been his fitness. He has looked very slow and off the pace but I expect a professional of his caliber to kick on and be at match fitness in no time, if he isn’t already there now. It is not only fitness that has perhaps hindered Kranjčars playing time but also the formation. In a 4-3-3 with two fairly slow defensive midfielders, it is impossible to accommodate someone of Kranjčar’s pace.
It makes the midfield extremely slow and susceptible to counter attack. However, in a 4-3-3 with one defensive mid and two attacking midfielders, Kranjčar’s pace is easier to cope with. With a runner next to him at attacking mid such as Josh Windass or Jason Holt, Kranjčar can become an extremely valuable player in this team as he has the ability to unlock a teams defence with his vision and passing. And with runners like Windass and Holt who both like to make runs into the box, Kranjčar could be the key to this midfield as a playmaker. As a free transfer, this has to be seen as a great signing as he has great experience (81 caps, Tottenham, QPR, Kyiv) and is still relatively young at 32.
Joe Dodoo: (RW/ST)
This is another signing which slightly confused me at the time. We did not and do not need another right winger. We currently have 4 players who can play right wing (Waghorn, McKay, O’Halloran, Forrester). Therefore this signing was to me, slightly unnecessary.
Dodoo, so far has looked good in pieces and it will be interesting to see what else he has to offer when he gets an extended period of game time. However, so far he has looked more dangerous as a RW than a ST despite mostly playing as a striker for us. I can understand the signing to a certain extent if he was made available and Warburton and McParland felt it was someone with great potential that they couldn’t turn down.
He has shown some good skill, good pace, and very good physicality as he has been able to fend off defenders when holding up the ball but I look forward to seeing more of him in the future. He could become a good piece of business if he manages to express himself on the park in his correct position.
Joe Garner: (ST)
This is another perfect piece of business to me. Rangers needed a striker desperately. The only out and out striker they had was Kenny Miller, with Waghorn and Dodoo being more of right wingers than strikers. We needed someone who was a proven goal scorer. Garner is, having scored over a hundred career goals at a good level of English football. We needed someone who was good in the air to attack crosses from McKay, Tavernier, Forrester etc. and Garner is exactly that, despite his size (5″10) he is excellent in the air, with a lot of his goals coming from there.
We needed someone who isn’t afraid to shoot from wherever and whenever, a lot of the time we pass the ball around the box and can’t penetrate the defensive back line of the opposition and then the cries and murmurs of “shoot” come from the Ibrox crowd and that is exactly what Garner does, at every chance he gets. We needed someone up front who will chase everything and is a total pest to defenders, he has good pace, not to the levels of O’Halloran or McKay but certainly up there, and with his attitude he can be a total pest to defenders.
Garner is a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and gives his all every match. For all these reasons, I believe he is the perfect signing for Rangers at £1.5 m and to me, has the potential to score a lot of goals in a Rangers team where the chances are plentiful, they just need to be finished.
FOLLOW JACK ON TWITTER – @jxckmorton