Rangers have just finished a gruelling week in the Algarve at their pre-season training base. The week was beneficial to Steven Gerrard as he looked to integrate no fewer than seven new signings into his squad.
However, with the squad to be trimmed, several players have to use this time, in the training camp and in the friendly matches, to prove to Gerrard that they either should be part of the squad going forward or be in the starting XI when the competitive action takes place in 10 days’ time.
It’s fair to say that this pre-season period, as well as the first month of the season, will be defining in Borna Barišić‘s Rangers career. He burst to the forefront of the Rangers supports minds after his two displays for Osijek in the Europa League qualifiers prior to his arrival at Ibrox.
However, the head-bandaged, marauding, hard-as-nails full-back didn’t display those attributes during his 22 appearances last season. Of course, at times, he showed what he was capable of with four assists but in the main, he looked unsure and simply not the guy who many thought may have been Rangers’ left-footed James Tavernier.
Barišić is a good player but he has some work to do to prove to everyone he can stand up to the unique physical challenge of Scottish football, but he has to show the manager and the fans the Barišić they saw for Osijek and not the Barišić who got labelled as ‘being soft’ by Steven Gerrard in January. For me, he should be given the second chance in order to see if he sinks or swims; ability-wise, he’s the best left-back at the club by a considerable distance.
Last summer, I thought Greg Docherty would kick on under Steven Gerrard and get some games under his belt. However, that wasn’t to be for the young dynamic midfielder. Instead, he spent the season on loan at Shrewsbury Town. He earned rave reviews during his loan spell. Scored 10 goals in 50 appearances as he became the main man. Furthermore, Docherty chipped in with a not-too-shabby 11 assists. His performances in the league, as well as cup goals against Wolves and Stoke, saw him voted as Player of the Year.
He’s already scored in a warm-up match against Mansfield on the pre-season trip. Now he has to keep that form up and push his way into the squad. He may well be behind the likes of Steven Davis, Glen Kamara, and the newly-arrived Joe Aribo in terms of a starting spot. But someone with Docherty’s drive could be useful as the season goes on. I am hopeful he can have a part to play and have something of a breakthrough season in a Rangers shirt, especially after his confidence-boosting stint south of the border.
With eight wingers now in the squad, the Portuguese Duracell bunny has a job on his hands to nail down a starting spot. Candeias, like many wingers, can be flaky, but his sheer energy at times can help lift the team’s performance. Yes, there is absolutely an argument for him lacking that final-ball quality at times and he would tell you that himself, no doubt. But he will be useful for the squad in European matches where they are more likely to come under the cosh for longer periods.
Last season, he lost his place in a few matches towards the end of the season and that coincided with some of the team’s better performances of the season. However, that’s not all down to Candeias losing his place. But for this coming season, he will face real competition for his place for the first time since his arrival. It’s up to Candeias to prove he’s worth a shirt but he’s certainly worth a place in the squad. He would be a very serviceable squad player.
He’s a fan favourite but yet again he will have to prove himself, especially if, as expected, another central defender joins George Edmundson at the club before the window closes. Last season was very much one with peaks and troughs for Katić But he and Connor Goldson looked the most solid partnership and so far this summer they would be, from a fan’s point of view, the desired pairing.
However, with how he was cast aside at times for Joe Worrall, Katić will have to be in tremendous form in order to keep his place beside Connor Goldson at the heart of the defensive and show he is capable of producing the form from the back-end of the season on a week-to-week basis. As things stand, it’s going to take a really good signing to remove him from that back four.
As usual, all eyes will be on Alfredo Morelos. Will he stay or will he go? That will take care of itself. But for now, he is the best striker at the club and he should start ahead of Jermain Defoe, in my opinion, but the 30-goal Colombian still has a lot of to prove – to everyone, including himself.
He’s a tremendous talent, no question, but this season he has to be clever. I don’t want him to change his style of play, but in terms of his discipline, it simply has to improve. He has to be able to learn to be clever and use the fact that defenders will nip at him to his advantage, and turn the tables on them.
He can look at Ryan Jack as an example in that regard. Jack picked up three reds in his first season and none last season because he learned how to channel his edge. Morelos has to do the same. Fortunately, he will have a hand in attack with Defoe being there from the get-go this season, but he also has to help himself and the team and improve just like Jack has done. It’s not impossible for Morelos to do so. Can he learn? Absolutely. Will he? Only time will tell.