It’s been a massive summer of change at Rangers. Of course, with Steven Gerrard and his team coming in, another squad overhaul was always on the cards. However, the sheer scale of the overhaul is something that is quite remarkable: 15 players have come in and 26 players have gone out, including youth loans.
We are now 13 games in, and we have a good indication of the new players will perform and contribute over the course of the season.
I am going to take a look at many of them – except those who haven’t played as of yet such as Gareth McAuley, Eros Grezda, Joe Worrall and the injured Jamie Murphy as we know what we get from him.
In Goldson, Rangers have found what they have been crying out for – a proper defender. He’s been a rock at the heart of the defence so far. What is most pleasing about his performances is that he just loves to defend; that may sound silly given he’s a defender. However, we see a lot of defenders these days who don’t like to put their head and body on the line. Goldson isn’t one of them. In the 13 games, he’s played so far, he’s had one poor one against Motherwell. He’s looking to be a shrewd piece of business. Furthermore, he’s one of those guys that you can hang your hat on to give you a seven-out-of-ten performance most weeks.
Katic has been highly impressive. Coming from a small club like Slaven Belupo and being just 21, of course, there were early doubts about how he is going to handle coming into a pressurised environment such as Rangers. But those early doubts or fears have gone. Like Goldson, he has been outstanding at the back and to be honest, he has everything in his game. His reading of the game and general calmness is what’s stood out to me the most. They seem to compliment each other so well thus far.
He’s been a massive upgrade on Wes Foderingham and that’s about the long and short of his return. Not only is he a bigger presence than Foderingham, he has something in his locker that I felt Foderigham often lacks or lacked in the past two seasons, the ability to make the big saves. We’ve already witnessed this in the games so far. One sticks in my mind more than any others. Ufa at Ibrox; Goldson had just given Rangers the lead and then McGregor pulls off a great stop down to the left to deny Ufa the away goal. I was worried about his reflexes diminishing but my worry was misplaced, he looks as superb as ever. Additionally, I think his presence and organisational skills have been a key reason as to why Katic and Goldson’s partnership has formed so quickly.
It’s a pity he was injured for the Celtic match. Ever since he’s come into the side he’s given that midfield area a new dimension. Rangers become instantly more powerful and the pressing game seems to work a lot better when Coulibaly is in there. Much like McGregor, even this early on in the season, his presence instantly makes Rangers a better side. He can do a little bit of everything as well: tackle, break up attacks, start attacks and he has proven against Maribor that he is capable of finding the net too. Out of all the midfield signings he’s been the most impressive for me.
I reckon so far Arfield has played a bit within himself. Yes, he’s shown that he’s a hard worker and can play within a structured system and provide the team with lots of endeavour and industry, however, I feel there is much more to come from him, especially in the final third. It could be a case that he has to relax and play his game, but over the first 13 games, whilst he has not been poor, he’s not hit the heights perhaps he may have hoped to.
Already Ejaria is this season’s marmite player. Truth is, he’s a young player who, on the whole, has played pretty well so far. He also gives us something we lack in midfield, the ability to pick a pass and the ability to do something totally unpredictable. Yes, he should have been smarter and fouled Rogic in the Old Firm, but calls for him to be sent back and him being lambasted are totally unfair, but not unexpected from the social media panty-wetters, especially after he had scored the goal and put in a superb shift in Russia on the Thursday night. He’s been a joy to watch at times, and hopefully, he continues his pre-Celtic form after the international break as he will have a big part to play in the coming weeks.
I must confess to liking Ryan Kent. I like his directness and willingness to run at the heart of defences from wide areas, and the fact that he’s not one of those young wingers who neglects his defensive duties. Having said that, like Ejaria he’s rough around the edges and has been a little bit inconsistent so far. With the arrival of Grezda, it will be interesting to see how much game time he is given in the next few matches.
You have to hope Sadiq’s issue is his lack of match fitness and lack of game time. Because he hasn’t shown much in any of the competitive games he’s been thrown into. However, you have to caveat that by saying, Rangers were basically trying to hold on to a result. Therefore, he had to chase the ball like a headless chicken while it was being launched at him from 60 yards away. I wouldn’t be writing him off yet, but he’s one I’d like to see start against Ayr United next midweek.
Barisic, without doubt, will prove to be a very good acquisition. As we saw when he played with Osijek against Rangers, his set-piece delivery and his crossing from wide areas is exceptional. Furthermore, in the games he has played for Rangers up until now, we can see that he can defend as well, proving to be positionally sound on 1-vs-1s. He will prove to be a bargain as the season progresses.
Flanagan, to this point, has been the steady Eddie defender. He does nothing flashy, he’s just solid and he always defends first. He’s already proved he can be relied on when called upon and is 100% an upgrade on Lee Hodson, who he has come in to replace.
Big Lafferty was, if nothing else, a sensible signing. A bit like McGregor in that regard, he knows the club, knows what it’s like to win things at Rangers. Furthermore, it appears at this early stage that he’s grown up and we have a more mature player on our hands. He’s a great option to have at this point and he allows the manager to rest certain players and play different systems given his flexibility. I was really pleased we managed to get him back from Hearts.