To quote Happy Gilmore – “somebody learned how to play”. I’m pretty sure he says “putt” rather than “play’ but the analogy works the same. A recent look at Alfredo Morelos and his form for Rangers tells you everything you need to know. Not only is he grafting and bodying defenders for ninety minutes, but he is also adding craft and guile. What has caused this sudden transformation from sulky kid to prolific marksman? Good old fashioned coaching, pure and simple.
First Time Confidence
Morelos’ attempted first-time shot from Candeias’ cross at 0-0 v Hearts is indicative of his new confidence. Yes, he missed. But it was the right option, take it early, all the best strikers do. It’s a sign that he now backs himself. Good strikers miss chances, sometimes there is more to be read in how they miss rather than how they score. If you know what I mean?
It is easy to assess definite progress when you have objective, concrete evidence in front of you. If we rewind only a matter of months to the early games of the season and watch Morelos. In particular, have a look at how he approaches crosses into the box. Carrying on from last year, he would be frequently offside and take an unnecessary touch, allowing defenders/goalkeepers to close him down. He would be passive. By this, I mean he would let the ball hit him rather than being positive and attacking the ball.
Sunday’s game against Hearts highlighted this perfectly. When he misses the early chance, he has missed it in a positive way. He attacked the ball, aiming to strike the ball first-time before the keeper is set. If he takes a touch, the defender and/or keeper would close him down. I read some fans suggesting he should have brought it down and laid it off to the onrushing Arfield some 20-odd yards away. But if he doesn’t score, you know what is coming – “why didn’t he hit it the first time?!”.
Yes, Morelos missed (and in fact score a harder chance later on) but because he was positive he doesn’t let it affect him. There is no “what if” reflection, only a “next time I’ll catch it better” thought process, and he did.
Learning From Mistakes
Morelos has had four goals disallowed for offside when he was clearly onside. Each of these goals was a confident, first-time finish. Even on Sunday (for his disallowed goal), although he was miles off, he took a positive touch then passed it into the net. He didn’t look nervous or unsure, he was just doing his job.
The coaching team at Ibrox is working wonders. Not just with Morelos either. We rarely seem to make the same mistake twice with regards to shape, formation, tactics and substitutions. Likewise, players seem to be correcting mistakes. For example, Tavernier, post-Motherwell has improved at set pieces and defending his back post. A more obvious example that may have gone un-noticed is Glenn Middleton. Against Kilmarnock, with the score at 1-1, he had a great chance to score what would’ve been a late winner. He controlled the ball onto his preferred left foot which allowed the defender to get across and make the block. Less than two weeks later an identical chance presented itself against Motherwell. This time, he hits it first time with his “weaker” right foot. He scores, and with some aplomb. It’s not a coincidence. There was the result of practice and training, having the confidence to hit the shot first time.
This Rangers team hasn’t been together long but already we are starting to see individual and collective improvements. We know we can trust the players and coaching staff. We are only going to get better.
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