As we are at the halfway stage of the season, and we need to suffer through the early part of January without any competitive Rangers action to go over, I wanted to reflect on part 1 of the 2019/20 campaign. Specifically, I wanted to see which of our players have stood out, according to the ratings that we have put together on our website. So, I trawled back through all of the Match Ratings, from way back to St Joseph’s in Gibraltar all the way up to beating Celtic at Parkhead, and crunched the numbers.
The results were both surprising and not. Let me explain. The players who are at the top of the pile of 28 boys who have featured for the first team so far are players that you would fully expect to be there. But what I also found was there are quite a few players who have featured regularly so far who find themselves surprisingly low on the list, to the point where it seems quite harsh. But we will examine that in more depth shortly.
So, to the top of the list. I asked on twitter before hand who people believed would be in the top three, and in what order. As I somewhat expected, the same four names kept popping up, Borna Barisic, Steven Davis, Ryan Jack and Alfredo Morelos. They would all find themselves at the top of people’s podiums as well, with Barisic and Morelos more favoured as the king of the hill. Other names did appear however, including James Tavernier, Allan McGregor, Ryan Kent and, in one very peculiar case, Dalcio. But it was clear what the top 4 was expected to be, and I am pleased to report that the Rangers family was spot on in who the top 4 was. But who was the best? Well, based on our ratings, our Player of the Season so far, or Player of the Half Season, is….
With an average rating of 7.53 over 30 games, Ryan Jack has continued to both surprise and inspire with the improvement in performance he has shown. He has really settled as playing on the right hand side of the midfield three, both tracking back to support his full back, as well as driving forward, playing solid passes and taking on strikes at goal. In more recent times he has shown real development in the holding midfield role as well, putting in the kind of tackles that get the Ibrox faithful off their seats. He is the only player so far to have produced a perfect 10/10 display, the match in Dingwall where he scored two excellent goals on top of all the other good things that he has been doing. It has often been said that he seems to be moulding into the archetype midfielder in Steven Gerrard’s image. Whatever he is becoming, Ryan Jack is absolutely crucial to the team, in a variety of midfield positions.
The runner up on the list is Alfredo Morelos. With a rating of 7.45 from 35 matches, the goal scoring genius has enhanced his reputation further both with Rangers fans and the wider footballing world (expect the rest of Scotland of course, jealousy is such an ugly trait) with his dominant forward displays both domestically and in Europe. He is becoming the complete striker. He can score goals with both feet and his head, he is strong in possession, can dribble past his man, and uses his low centre of gravity (or, if you don’t want to be all fancy about it, his bum) to turn his defender without them having any chance of stopping him. Top scorer across the continent in the Europa League group stage, his performances in Glasgow have resonated all the way back to Colombia, and he has featured and scored for his country this past year as a result, with many expecting him to make the squad for the Copa America this coming summer, despite some stiff competition for the forward places in that roster. But, let’s be clear, he has impressed in games that he hasn’t scored in as well. The last two Old Firm games are prime examples of this. He did everything but score in the League Cup final and was simply unlucky, but put in one hell of a shift at Hampden. And he did the same at Parkhead, and as much as it’s tempting to say he is a bottler against Celtic, when you look at his overall game, that is simply not the case.
Taking the bronze medal for the latter half of 2019 is Steven Davis. When he returned to Rangers last year, there were concerns that he was not able to replicate the magnificent midfield displays he was capable of in his first spell. But, once he was put into the holding midfield role, he found his feet and has been unstoppable ever since. With an average rating of 7.40 from 27 games, he is a player who you really notice isn’t there when he is missing, despite him doing a lot of work that can go under the radar. The tempo at which Rangers play is often set by the Northern Ireland captain, his range of passing playing a very important part in this. He is also surprisingly quick for his age. Very much the wrong side of 30 now, he is still able to track back and win the ball as well as driving forward too. His experience and his leadership are so important to what is, in the main, a young squad, and the fact that he has signed a contract extension recently gives me a warm feeling inside. It’s nice to know we will have the most capped British midfielder of all time for that little bit longer!
And in fourth place, the Croatian full back who turns and goes, Borna Barisic. 7.33 from 27 games may surprise many as being too low given how important he has been for the team in recent months, but you have to keep in mind that this covers the whole season so far, and his start to the season was not that good. He looked the same, confidence lacking player that we witnessed the previous campaign, and he seemed set to depart the club if the fans overall opinion was anything to go by. But that free kick against St Mirren, followed by his contribution to the goal versus Feyenoord at Ibrox look like the building blocks for the ‘Borna Bear’ we know and love today. His natural ability to cross the ball has been utilised so well, but the key thing that he has improved upon is his bravery. He is now happy to get stuck into challenges, which makes him the complete full back. The fact he now has the main responsibility for set pieces tells you all you need to know, his deliveries are just better than anyone else in the side. He is the best left back in Croatia, who are sixth in the world I might add, and the fact he can now look opposition fans in the face and simply laugh at them gives me joy in my heart. If he continues this progress for the rest of the season, he may well find himself higher up on the list come this campaigns conclusion.
But what of the rest of the team? Below you will see the full list of average ratings for the season so far, and it is important with some players to bare in mind the number of games they have played this season.
1. Ryan Jack – 7.53 – 30 games
2. Alfredo Morelos – 7.45 – 35 games
3. Steven Davis – 7.40 – 27 games
4. Borna Barisic – 7.33 – 27 games
5. Ryan Kent – 7.29 – 17 games
6. Joe Aribo – 7.09 – 32 games
7. Allan McGregor – 7 – 33 games
8. Nikola Katic – 7 – 19 games
9. Jordan Jones – 7 – 10 games
10. George Edmundson – 7 – 5 games
11. Connor Goldson – 6.80 – 36 games
12. Filip Helander – 6.76 – 17 games
13. Foderingham – 6.75 – 4 games
-. Greg Docherty – 6.75 – 4 games
15. Jermain Defoe – 6.73 – 26 games
16. Glen Kamara – 6.67 – 28 games
17. James Tavernier – 6.65 – 35 games
18. Andy King – 6.6 – 5 games
19. Greg Stewart – 6.5 – 18 games
20. Matt Polster – 6.5 – 4 games
21. Jamie Murphy – 6.5 – 2 games
-. Jake Hastie – 6.5 – 2 games
23. Scott Arfield – 6.38 – 34 games
24. Sheyi Ojo – 6.31 – 30 games
25. Brandon Barker – 6.3 – 10 games
26. Jon Flanagan – 6.28 – 7 games
-. Andy Halliday – 6.28 – 7 games
28. Josh McPake – 6 – 1 game
Two things jump out at me from this list. Two players who have played a lower amount of games yet find themselves quite high on the list are Jordan Jones and George Edmundson. Jones, who really impressed when he broke into the team before making a silly decision in the Old Firm match at Ibrox, could well have been in the conversation alongside the likes of Ryan Kent. Could JJ be a player that could make significant contributions to the first part of 2020? Or will that mistake ultimately cost him the chance to play his part? If he is used right, he could feel like a new signing. George Edmundson looks very impressive too. A big unit, with an eye for a cross field pass, and so young as well. Clearly in his very limited time on the park he has looked good enough to hold his own, could he be set to feature more in the run in? Unlikely, but if we have defensive injuries to contend with, we know that big George is a fine option to come in.
What also surprises me is how low James Tavernier and Scott Arfield find themselves. Tav has had some good performances so far, but to be fair he has had some stinkers too. I think the improvement he has made of late has mainly been down to the responsibility Barisic has taken on regarding set pieces. The fact Tavernier can focus on defending has improved his overall game I think, leaving him one less thing to think about could be a master stroke. Arfield really did struggle at the start of the season, and only recently has proven his worth to the team. A lot of people have criticised the fact he has to travel as far as he does for his national team games with Canada, but it maybe was more to do with the fact he was actually playing out of position. He has looked a lot better in the middle three rather than the front three, a tactical tweak which is based around the idea of him being more effective when he is facing the goal rather than his back being to it. His talent and work rate is obvious, but it needs to be used right.
When you look at that list, what surprises you the most? Players like Defoe and Kamara being lower than Foderingham and Docherty is of course an anomaly, but that’s why I have put in the number of games played, as the more games played makes the higher rating more impressive.
If we were to make a starting 11 based on this list, and go on the basis that you would have had to play at least 11 games to qualify for the team, and that players would play in their natural position, the team would look like this:
Look familiar? Of course it does, it’s the line up we put out in our 2-1 win at the home of our rivals! And to be honest, even without the list in front of you, if I was to ask you to name our best 11, I would expect 90% of you to say this team. This certainly feels like the go to team for our big games, I would expect this 11 for Braga for example, but we would likely see players such as Arfield, Stewart and Defoe in some of the more “winnable” games, as we will be playing a lot of games from here on in and we need to use the squad well.
My final thought. Does this collection of data suggest that we are missing someone? Do we need to invest in our squad in this transfer window? If we are being forensic about it you might say that we need better consistency from our right back and left centre mid positions. But the idea that we would need to replace James Tavernier and Glen Kamara sounds rather ludicrous, particularly in the case of Tavernier. So I would suggest that any signings in would be done simply as a luxury, and are not (at this stage) necessary, but I would assume we have targets in place should we receive offers for some of those key players that are simply too good to refuse. We have a really good squad, an excellent squad in fact, and we are getting closer and closer to achieving our goals. Let’s simply hope that these lads continue to play as well as they have in part 2 of 2019/20.