How Rangers carried out a near-perfect transfer window despite Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent drama
No manager gets everything they want from any transfer window, but Steven Gerrard has ended up with just about all he could have expected from Rangers’ business in the extended summer 2020 marketplace.
The capture of South African international midfielder Bongani Zungu just a couple of hours before Monday night’s deadline completed a satisfying four months of recruitment activity for the Ibrox club as they look to find their way back into the Premiership winners’ enclosure this season.
For Rangers manager Gerrard, it will have been as gratifying to hold onto all of his key players as it is to add the new faces he hopes can help his squad build on the progress made during his first two years in charge and finally deliver tangible evidence of it in the form of silverware.
In resisting sizeable offers for winger Ryan Kent and striker Alfredo Morelos from Leeds United and Lille respectively, the Rangers board of directors have provided Gerrard with the kind of backing which mirrors his ambitions for the campaign ahead.
Rangers have made eight signings this summer, while 11 fringe players have been offloaded either permanently or on loan. It leaves Gerrard with a leaner but better balanced squad for the challenges he faces both domestically and in the Europa League over the coming months.
In between the sticks
Allan McGregor remains a top class goalkeeper and first pick for Gerrard when the chips are down. But the signing of Jon McLaughlin on a free transfer from Sunderland looks to have strengthened the back-up to McGregor following the release of both Wes Foderingham and Jak Alnwick.
When McGregor was injured in the first game of the season against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, McLaughlin stepped in and played his part in a record-breaking run of seven straight clean sheets at the start of a Scottish top flight campaign.
The former Hearts man, now pushing David Marshall for the Scotland number one jersey, is a high quality back-up for McGregor.
Strengthening the defence
Central defence was an area where Rangers already had significant depth, despite an injury in pre-season to Nikola Katic. The acquisition of Nigerian international Leon Balogun from Wigan Athletic on a free transfer has given Gerrard another solid option in that department.
The main focus was in providing adequate cover for full-backs James Tavernier and Borna Barisic, such important figures in the way Rangers play under Gerrard.
Following the sale of American right-back Matt Polster to New England Revolution for £350,000 and the release of Jon Flanagan, Gerrard has handed teenager Nathan Patterson a huge vote of confidence as Tavernier’s deputy.
The only defensive addition this summer has been Calvin Bassey on a free transfer from Leicester City. The 20-year-old left-back has made just one starting appearance so far but has also caught the eye with his contributions from the bench, suggesting he can step in for Barisic whenever required.
Trimming the midfield
This was a part of Gerrard’s squad which was unquestionably overpopulated. That has been addressed with the release on free transfers of Andy Halliday, Jason Holt and Jordan Rossiter, while Greg Docherty was sold to Hull City for £350,000.
Ross McCrorie, highly rated by Gerrard but unable to be guaranteed regular game time, has been loaned to Aberdeen with an option to buy. In the wide areas, Jamie Murphy has been loaned to Hibs in a similar deal, while Jake Hastie returned to Motherwell on loan.
Rangers’ first piece of incoming business of the summer window was the £3.15million signing of Ianis Hagi from Genk, a priority for Gerrard after the Romanian international playmaker impressed during his initial loan spell at Ibrox at the end of last season.
Hagi has underlined why Gerrard sets such store by his ability, contributing seven assists already in Rangers’ unbeaten start to the new campaign.
Gerrard is content with the competition he has for the wider positions in his midfield, with Brandon Barker and Jordan Jones staking their claims in recent weeks, while the return from injury of Joe Aribo will complement the creativity of Hagi.
The final piece of the jigsaw for Gerrard was finding another central midfielder to join Ryan Jack, Steven Davis and Glen Kamara in competing for a place in the engine room of his side. He believes he has got the man he needed in Zungu who has joined on loan from French club Amiens for the rest of the season.
Plenty of firepower
After 18 months on loan at the club, Jermain Defoe made his switch from Bournemouth a permanent one this summer and the veteran former England striker remains a valuable weapon in Gerrard’s armoury.
Alfredo Morelos, if he remains as fit and focused as he has been in recent weeks after initially looking sluggish and distracted amidst Lille’s failed pursuit of him, is likely to remain Gerrard’s first choice for the number nine role.
But Rangers’ most significant outlay of the summer has been in the acquisition of two strikers who are both expected to provide keen competition for that position.
Former Leeds United front man Kemar Roofe, signed from Anderlecht for £3.5m, was beginning to make a positive impact for Rangers before he picked up an injury last month. He should return after the international break and his versatility, able to play anywhere along the front three or just off the main striker, could be a major asset for Gerrard.
Swiss international striker Cedric Itten, snapped up from St Gallen for £2.7m, had a slow-burning start at Rangers but burst into life with a double in the recent 5-1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park. His goalscoring pedigree should ensure Rangers are less reliant on the firepower of Morelos.
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