Former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard has taken his first step into management at one of the most high pressure jobs in all of football; Glasgow Rangers. This is a place where previously anything other than winning was considered not good enough. However, that mentality and mindset has been missing, from both playing and non-playing staff, for a number of years now.
There has been plenty said about the “assurances” that Gerrard must have had to take on this role, The squad itself is in major need of an overhaul if Rangers are to close in on fierce rivals Celtic who are currently 7 times consecutive reigning champions. Gerrard will be under no illusions about the gulf in quality and must look to address this as a priority on June 1st when he steps into one of the toughest jobs in European football.
Here at Pure Fitbaw we’ve taken the opportunity to highlight some of the potential targets that Gerrard could look to bring in from his former club Liverpool and outlay the benefits of investing in players that will know and respect their former captain.
24 year old Wales international Danny Ward is currently somewhere between 3rd and 4th choice at Liverpool and is unlikely to dislodge Loris Karius or Simon Mignolet who are also likely to have another challenger for the number 1 jersey in the summer. This would leave Ward surely with no option but to look elsewhere. Ward has had loan spells at Aberdeen and Huddersfield in the last few seasons and averaged a 36% clean sheet rate over 64 games whereas Rangers’ Wes Foderingham had a rate of 30% over the same amount of games.
Danny Ward also offers a height and reach advantage over the current Rangers keeper coming in at 6 ft 2 inches. This big bodied frame offers a command of the area that Foderingham can often lack especially when there is a need to take pressure off a back four which has been so susceptible to hiding and feeling sorry for itself when it matters most.
As clearly shown in the highlights video Ward is confident in his positional awareness and knows when to come off his line and when to stick. We also see that his bigger physique is not detrimental in any way and there are numerous points in the video that his reflexes really stand out.
Rangers have brought in Allan McGregor and may have more pressing priorities across the pitch but if they can ship Foderingham out to one of the English Championship clubs rumoured to be interested then Ward on either a loan or permanent deal makes a lot of sense. This is the sort of investment that could offer a potential resale benefit that Rangers most recent transfer policy has been lacking but most importantly would give a base to remove the defensive frailties and transform the defence into a more physical and commanding unit.
Jon Flanagan has had a very stop-start career but his early promise drew plaudits from none other than Brazilian World Cup winner and captain Cafu who called him a “successor” to his position in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine.
Injuries have seen Flanagan and the surrounding hype almost come to a standstill and the poor form of Bolton, his most recent loan move, at the foot of the English Championship has led to this one time England international becoming somewhat of a forgotten man.
He would offer a shift in priorities in terms of Rangers current set up. He is a more defensive minded right back than James Tavernier – who can offer so much going forward with his 7 goals and 8 assists but has a tendency to neglect his rearguard responsibilities and often leaves huge gaps for opposition to exploit. Tavernier’s ability to cover ground quickly stops this from hindering Rangers in most instances but it is clear to anyone that has watched the Ibrox club over the past two years that if they put more focus on the defensive phases/transitions they would be more successful than they currently are. Given Crystal Palace’s rumoured interest in Tavernier it might be wise to cash in and replace him with Flanagan.
Using attributes from the computer game Football Manager; the green radar represents Flanagan and the blue radar represents Tavernier. This direct comparison really highlights the improvement that would be offered from a defensive standpoint. The downside of selecting Flanagan instead of Tavernier would be that Rangers would lose out on one of their key attacking outlets but defenders need to defend first and foremost and the upgrade that is on offer here would really benefit Rangers as they conceded the sixth most goals in the SPFL Premiership this season – letting in 25 more than Celtic.
Finally, with only 12 months left on Flanagan’s contract, this deal could represent great value for Rangers as they may be able to negotiate down the deal for Flanagan and potentially look to remove some risk by incentivising any deal heavily based on appearances.
The all-action Serbian Midfielder can take control of any of the central positions and offers a combination of defensive solidity, high energy and technical ability which led to Jurgen Klopp making Grujic his first signing for Liverpool. Grujic would offer a versatility to Steven Gerrard when it comes to his shape and philosophy.
Grujic has 6 full caps for Serbia and has spent the second half of this season on loan to newly promoted Cardiff City where he made 13 appearances out of a possible 16. The balance he offers between technical ability and physical attributes are very desirable and actually the young Serb was linked with a move to Old Firm rivals Celtic in January. Grujic often draws comparisons to compatriot Nemanja Matic of Manchester United due to his robust tackling and competitive nature and is viewed as the natural successor when Matic retires from the international scene.
One of the potential advantages Rangers could have if they are able to talk Grujic into a loan deal to Glasgow would be the fact he has played a number of times in the “Eternal Derby” between Red Star and Partizan Belgrade, so the hostility that is often mentioned about the Old Firm would be nothing new and actually may seem quite mild in comparison.
Liverpool have been quoted a number of times as stating that he is part of their long-term plans but they may see a loan move to a new environment where there is an expectation to win every game, and potentially European football, a good option for further development.
Dominic Solanke, one of the first names to be linked with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers, is highly thought of in the England set up and has played for England at every level from Under 16 all the way to making his full international debut on November 14th 2017 against Brazil.
Solanke offers a lot of similar traits to Alfredo Morelos as he is a physical player who works extremly hard for his team and likes to pull defenders with him to the flanks rather than staying central. Given that his best scoring return to date is 7 goals in 25 appearances on loan for Vitesse in the Eredivise it may be the case that he needs to improve in terms of composure in front of goal too.
Directly comparing Solanke and Morelos we can see a lot of similarities statistically with only 27 minutes between the goals per minute stat which is of note considering that Solanke is impacted by his appearances for Liverpool being predominantly from the bench.
One benefit that Solanke will offer for Rangers, which may seem small, is that there will be no language barrier and the young Englishman should be able to effectively communicate with his team mates. The SPFL Premiership is a tough league with a focus on the fast paced, physical aspects of the game which could play to the strengths of this young forward and therefore make the move an attractive one from Liverpool’s standpoint.
All of these players would add new dimensions to the existing Rangers squad, offer an upgrade across the park and most importantly will already have the respect for Steven Gerrard instilled in them which will help other new players toe the line when it comes to the next attempt to close the gap on their great rivals.