Tis the season to be Alfredo Morelos: Why Colombian is still Rangers best bet up front
For everything, there is a season – and when it comes to Alfredo Morelos, there appears to be a clearly defined spell during a campaign when he is at his productive best in front of goal.
When the Colombian striker went six appearances without a goal for Rangers recently, no-one should really have been too surprised. Because since he joined the Ibrox club from HJK Helsinki in the summer of 2017, barren spells have been just as commonplace as prolific sequences of finding the net.
After his match-winning contribution in Thursday’s Europa League match against Lech Poznan, Morelos has now scored 83 goals in 152 games for Rangers. That’s a more than acceptable strike rate by any standards.
But as Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has pointed out, Morelos isn’t judged by him or his coaching staff purely on the amount of times he finds a way to put the ball beyond the opposition goalkeeper. When he is at his focused best, there is so much more to the 24-year-old’s contribution in terms of holding the ball up, linking play and dragging defenders out of their comfort zones.
It was clearly evident once again against Lech Poznan when Morelos brought a fresh dynamism to Rangers’ play almost immediately after replacing Kemar Roofe in the 63rd minute. Just five minutes later, he scored the only goal of the game with his fine header from Borna Barisic’s brilliant cross to equal Ally McCoist’s all-time club European scoring record of 21.
It was a timely reminder of why, despite the multiple alternative options Gerrard now has up front in the shape of Roofe, Cedric Itten and Jermain Defoe, Morelos remains Rangers most effective number nine.
Gerrard was at pains after the match on Thursday night to insist Morelos ‘wasn’t dropped’ when he was an unused substitute in last Sunday’s 2-0 Premiership win over Livingston at Ibrox and then started the evening on the bench again for the Lech Poznan fixture.
He explained that Morelos had been suffering from jet lag after returning from the last international break which involved a demanding travel itinerary for Colombia’s matches at home to Venezuela and away to Chile.
Having recovered his mental focus, after being distracted by the transfer window saga of Lille’s interest in him, Morelos is now regaining his optimum physical condition. If the history of the previous two seasons is a reliable guide, that means now is certainly the time for Gerrard to hand his talisman a lengthy run of appearances in the starting line-up.
Because the period from around Hallowe’en to Christmas seems to be when Morelos comes alive in the penalty box. In the 2018-19 campaign under Gerrard, he scored eight goals in 12 games from October 31 to Boxing Day. Last season, it was an even more abundant period for him as he netted 12 in 12 matches from October 30 to Boxing Day.
Morelos, like Rangers themselves, lost his mojo after the turn of the year as he added just one more to his tally. So the challenge is to sustain his form this time around, a factor which is likely to be key to Gerrard’s prospects of winning silverware.
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