There is no such thing as a good time to get injured, especially one as severe as the anterior cruciate ligament injury Rangers winger, Jamie Murphy suffered v Kilmarnock on Sunday. The only thing Murphy can focus on now is pre-season training in June 2019, ten months down the line in his rehabilitation. If all goes well at each stage, he should be back in some football-specific training round that sort of time and can hit the ground running. I’ve no doubt he will come back and be like the proverbial new signing but Rangers are now short in the forward areas despite the arrival of the 7ft flute player. Murphy will not be easy to replace given the all-round balance to his attacking play. How should Rangers adapt to Murphy’s absence though?
Get Loan Cover
This seems the most obvious choice. Bring in a young attacking player that is versatile across the front. Murphy still has plenty years ahead of him so to sign a permanent replacement is a little premature. Ryan Kent has looked good in flashes so far but he needs a goal for his confidence though.
Now that the Premier League transfer window has shut there will be players on the fringes looking for a way out. Rangers could offer a shop window for the rest of the season. A name that sticks out but may be unattainable (depending on wages) is Yannick Bolasie at Everton. He’s available on loan and would be an option if Europa League qualification is secured. He could be brilliant for us.
Sign a Free Agent on a Short-Term Contract
You could say there is a reason they are still free agents after the season has started. Will they be behind the curve in terms of fitness as well? Maybe it would be worth signing one of the following on a twelve-month contract with an extension clause? A quick internet search picked up a few familiar names.
Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri, and Bakary Sako are all available on the free market just now. Out of the three, Sako probably fits the player profile that Allen and Gerrard have recruited so far. Big, physical and plenty of pace. The fact that he has been used to the Crystal Palace “team first” ethos under Roy Hodgson would be a decent trait too. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up back in the Premier League though given his assets.
Samir Nasir? I have a feeling he’d come to Scotland with the same attitude of Joey Barton and the same work rate of Niko Kranjcar. Nasri basically stopped playing a year into his massive contract at Manchester City and hasn’t got going since. He’s destined for China or the middle east.
The most interesting one for me is Hatem Ben Arfa. Playing anywhere behind a central striker he has the potential to cause serious carnage, especially in the Scottish Premier Football League. Playing against tight defences wouldn’t be a problem and he has that bit of magic we’ve missed for years. But, I’m not sure he’s the hardest working player there’s ever been. Would he struggle to fit into the Gerrard system? Either way, Ben Arfa would be an adventure!
Promote from Within
Arise Glen Middleton! If ever there was an opportunity to make your mark this is it. He is already considered a first team squad player so why not? It could be that Gerrard looks for cover for Kent, Candeias, and Middleton rather than someone to start ahead of them.
Gerrard spoke about the pressure Ross McCrorie was put under last year. Because of this I don’t see Middleton being thrust into such a big position of responsibility. He will continue to start the occasional game and be an impact substitute in others. His development takes priority. There is also another reason why he won’t automatically be promoted.
Lafferty Plays Wide Left
The arrival of Kyle Lafferty as a striker solved one problem just as another had been created. Gerrard has said he sees Lafferty as a 9. Current circumstances might dictate that the big Northern Irish man plays on the familiar left-hand side role he occupied under Walter Smith so often.
Lafferty and Murphy have a few similar traits. They are both deceptively quick and like to cut inside coming from the left-hand wing/half-space. Murphy is better with the ball at his feet whereas Lafferty is better at attacking the ball. With the ammunition coming from Tavernier and Candeias on the right this could be a valuable asset.
A Combination of the Above
I think we could see Lafferty play on the left in the “big” games and occasionally through the middle to rest Morelos. Candeias, Kent, and Middleton will also rotate around the two wide positions. Although Lafferty was bought as a centre-forward I’d be very surprised if we don’t bring in another wide player. I’d expect a younger player either on loan or someone like Jordan Jones in permanently. When Murphy returns, Jones would be able to develop and provide decent cover. Personally, I think we can do better than Jones and I’m sure Mark Allen and Steven Gerrard will produce as they have done so far.
The next few games will give a big indication of how Gerrard will use Lafferty. The next couple of weeks are the biggest Rangers have had since 2011/12 with Europa League qualification and the first Old Firm game on 2nd of September. Will this be the date the banter years are truly and officially ended?