As they look to close the gap between themselves and Scottish champions Celtic, one of Rangers’ primary aims for the summer transfer window must be to improve their attacking potency. This motive no doubt underlies their pursuit of striker Alfredo Morelos.
The Glasgow giants struggled in the final third throughout 2016/17. Not only did they score 40 fewer goals than their fierce city rivals, but they hit 18 less than second-placed Aberdeen and only one more than fifth-placed Heart of Midlothian.
Lack of cutting edge in attack wasn’t the only problem; Rangers also failed to foster a cohesive defensive line and consequently conceded far too many for a serious title push. But with the additions of centre-backs Bruno Alves and Fábio Cardoso, as well as defensive midfielder Ryan Jack, the defensive issue has already been addressed.
However, while a couple of Portuguese wingers in Dálcio and Daniel Candeias have been brought in, there remains a glaring omission of quality centre-forwards within Pedro Caixinha’s squad as it stands.
This could be rectified somewhat with the reportedly imminent arrival of Morelos.
The current crop
Rangers’ current striker options don’t inspire much confidence. Of the four, only Kenny Miller reached double figures in the Scottish Premiership. Of the others – Joe Garner, Martyn Waghorn and Joe Dodoo – the highest personal tally was seven.
Garner was seen as the antidote this time last year, although there was some scepticism over his record previously. With Preston North End, the Englishman had been prolific in League One before hitting just six goals in 41 Championship outings in 2015/16.
Ultimately, the former Watford man was unable to provide the spark in attack that Rangers needed. He endured criticism not for his work rate – which was excellent – but for his lacking a genuinely clinical touch.
Former manager Mark Warburton defended him publicly, but he has since been replaced by Caixinha. And Garner also looks set to depart, with reports suggesting a £1million move to Ipswich Town could soon be on the cards.
Former Rangers midfield enforcer Alex Rae stated his belief that striker was a position the club needed to sort once and for all this summer, stating: “They could do with some extra firepower up front. Rangers have been wasteful in front of goal at times this season. There have been games where they’ve dominated play and created changes, but failed to win.”
How Morelos compares
The good news for Rangers fans is that Morelos, who BBC Sport reported arrived in Edinburgh earlier this week to seal a move to Ibrox, has a much better strike rate than the club’s current crop.
With 11 in 37 league games, Miller’s rate for 2016/17 stood at 0.3 goals per game. Garner, with seven in 31, averaged 0.23 per game. Waghorn, with seven in 32, averaged 0.22 per game, while Dodoo, who scored just three in 20 outings, averaged 0.15 per game.
Incredibly, even when the four strikers’ individual totals were added up, they still didn’t score one goal per game, coming in at 0.9 per game collectively.
Morelos should up this average substantially if his record in Finland with HJK Helsinki, whom he has represented for the last two years, is anything to go by.
The Colombian hit 16 goals in 30 league games last year, and has hit 12 in 12 so far this year. His strike rate has gone from 0.53 per game to one per game, and taking both seasons into account his average was 0.67 per game, which is over twice that achieved by Miller, Rangers’ top scorer in 2016/17.
For the sake of context, it’s worth noting that this strike rate was compiled in the Finnish top tier, which is generally perceived to be of a lower level than the Scottish Premiership. However, at the age of 20 years old, there is real reason to believe Morelos has the upside necessary to continue developing and hit similar heights in Scotland.
Morelos' Style Of Play
“I’ve always been a scorer,” Morelos stated in a recent interview. “Since my father got me into football, I scored goals. In Medellín, when I was given the opportunity and played several games in a row [for former club Independiente Medellín], I also scored goals. I consider myself a scorer.
The player’s words tie into his style. The youngster may still be slightly raw from a technical perspective, but he is an extremely confident operator whose record in front of goal speaks volumes about his mentality.
Morelos is a single-minded attacker with the opposition’s goal at the forefront of his game. Standing just under five foot 10 inches, he isn’t the tallest of strikers. However, he uses his size and low centre of gravity to his advantage in one-on-one situations and relishes dribbling at an opponent.
As a forward, he can take up good positions in and around the opposition penalty box in advanced attacking situations. However he is at his best when pulling wide earlier on, or in counter-attacks, from where he likes to drive at defences, using his pace and skill to cut inside and fashion opportunities.
Along with his quick feet come fast decision making. Morelos comes alive in the final third, where he consistently finds angles for shots. His finishing is accurate, meaning he is rarely off target, and he is also comfortable taking on efforts with his right foot as well as his favoured left.
Defensively, the 20-year-old isn’t shy of working hard to take up good positions, hassle opposition ball-players or put in a tackle. As such, his influence isn’t limited to attacking moves, and he can be considered a positive team player.
It is believed that Rangers have agreed a fee of around £1million with HJK Helsinki to facilitate the player’s arrival. If this is true, the Scottish club will be getting a talented youngster with an excellent record and good potential for what is a very reasonable price in today’s climate.
Morelos is ambitious, too. He doesn’t seem like the type to settle once a move is completed, saying: “I’ve been doing things right in the last few months and I come here to Rangers to contribute to the team, to the club and to win some titles which is really important.
“I’m very young, I'm 20 years old so I just hope I can continue making progress here, scoring lots of goals, so I can be selected for my national team and play with Falcao, with James [Rodriguez], and with so many other important players.”