Why Bongani Zungu can play a key role for Rangers in crucial period of the season
He has only played 45 minutes of football under Steven Gerrard so far but there is already a sense Bongani Zungu could prove to be an inspired signing by Rangers.
As the Ibrox club prepare for a potentially defining spell of 13 games in three competitions over six weeks, kicking off at home to Aberdeen on Sunday and leading up to the second Old Firm showdown of the campaign against Celtic on January 2, the strength in depth of Gerrard’s clearly improved squad will be subjected to its sternest test yet.
While there’s little doubt midfield is an area where Rangers were already well served before the acquisition of Zungu on a season-long loan from French club Amiens was secured in the closing hours of the transfer window last month, the South African international appears more than ready to share the load of a demanding schedule.
It has to be recognised that the 28-year-old made his debut for Rangers in the most propitious circumstances imaginable. With a 4-0 half-time lead against Hamilton Accies at Ibrox 10 days ago, Gerrard had the luxury of withdrawing Ryan Jack at the break and replacing him with Zungu. That said, it was still instantly clear to those in attendance that Zungu has the potential to play a significant role in Rangers’ quest for success at home and in Europe over the coming weeks and months.
The biggest compliment which can be paid to the rangy, six-foot Zungu is that he provided a seamless transition in the flow of Rangers’ play in which Jack is normally so pivotal. Composed on the ball and playing with his head up, Zungu’s pass selection and decision-making was close to flawless as he kept his new team ticking over to add another four goals in the rout of Hamilton.
Although Steven Davis and Glen Kamara also provide real nous and consistency in the possession-based approach of Rangers’ central midfield department, Zungu looks as if he may be the closest thing yet to a like-for-like replacement for Jack as the metronomic hub of Gerrard’s side.
But while Gerrard will certainly rotate his midfield over the course of the forthcoming intense run of Premiership, Europa League and Betfred Cup fixtures, there’s also no reason why Jack and Zungu should not feature together. The South African looks more than capable of operating in a more advanced position and clearly has an eye for goal as he displayed when scoring the clincher for his country after coming on as a substitute in their 2-0 win against Sao Tome and Principe in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier last Friday.
Zungu then played the full 90 minutes of the 4-2 win over the same opponents in Durban on Monday, leaving South Africa on the verge of qualifying for the 2021 finals which are now scheduled to take place in Cameroon in January 2022.
He should return to Rangers’ training ground later this week much closer to full match fitness and is likely to be seen more regularly in a light blue jersey.
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