It sounds strange to suggest the second-highest scorers in the Scottish Premiership need a goal-scorer, but bringing another threat to the Rangers attack could be exactly what they need to push themselves up the table.
Currently three points behind Aberdeen in second place after 22 games, Alfredo Morelos is the Gers’ top marksman with ten league goals, but next is Josh Windass with six. Graeme Murty can’t expect to improve his attack relying on the goals of one forward.
?️ “Something I have always wanted to do since I can remember is to play in an Old Firm game and I can’t wait to be part of one.”
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) January 15, 2018
One issue in the Gers’ pursuit was going to be new Forest boss Aitor Karanka. Cummings has only managed 600 minutes and seven starts under former boss Mark Warburton, but the Spanish coach wanted to assess his whole squad before deciding on any moves.
However, the loan deal until the end of the season gives the striker a chance to play more and for both sides to take a better look at the 22-year-old.
Who is Jason Cummings?
The Scotland international was born in Edinburgh, so it’s no surprise that’s where his career began. Although a Hearts fan as a kid, they cut him from their youth program after struggling from injuries. After impressing for local side Hutchinson Vale, Hibernian signed him up in 2013.
During the 2013/14 campaign, the young forward made 16 appearances in the top-flight, but failed to find the back of the net. It wasn’t until Hibs were relegated to the Championship where Cummings found his shooting boots.
In three seasons in the second division he scored 55 league goals in 98 games, becoming the first Hibs player to score in four consecutive Edinburgh derbies for 42 years.
At the end of the 2016/17 campaign, his goals helped the club win their place back in the Premiership and he was nominated for Young Player of the Year and Championship Player of the Year.
He had fulfilled his promise to return Hibs to the top flight and that summer he signed a three-year contract with Forest for an undisclosed fee, believed to be over £1million.
His greatest success this term has come in the EFL Cup, scoring three goals in three games, whereas in the English Championship he has managed just one.
What are Cummings’ strengths?
The left-footed striker, standing around 5ft 9ins tall, is not a target man. He can score goals with his head and his movement is good enough to create space for those opportunities, but his game is based around playing off the shoulder of the last defender and using quickness over the first few yards to get in behind the opposition to create space.
He’s showed against Newcastle United last season his ability to create distance between himself and his marker, especially after the first few attempts failed to pick him out, but he kept mobile and it paid off.
In the graphics above, you can see his initial starting position between the two defenders.
When his marker pushes out to close down the man in possession, Cummings uses this as the perfect opportunity to slip into the space, looking for a pass.
The ball doesn’t come and instead it’s pushed out wide.
Again he gets into the hole between the centre-backs, ready for the cross, but again there’s no attempt to pick him out.
When the ball comes into a more central position, Cummings makes a small but crucial move towards the ball, giving himself a half-yard.
This time the pass is made and the Scottish forward is there to guide his header into the net.
His constant movement and desire to get free was finally rewarded and it’s this hunger that makes him so dangerous.
Later in the same game he latched on to a long ball over the top, again, playing off the shoulder of the last defender to get in behind and his lobbed, first-time finish was perfect.
Cummings will often point and show his team-mates where he wants the ball and then has the acceleration to break free.
This season, despite a lack of regular minutes in the first team, he leads Forest in shots per 90 minutes with 4.1, with 1.1 finding the target.
He is averaging just 2.1 poor touches per 90, fewer than fellow strikers Daryl Murphy and Jamie Ward.
With 3.2 tackles attempted per 90, he is a willing worker and defends from the front and he adds 1.7 key passes too, suggesting his is capable of linking up with players around him.
What are Cummings’ weakness?
The first thing that stands out is his over-reliance on his left foot. Rarely does he try to shoot with his weaker foot, to the extent you can see him shape his body to make sure he gets the ball on to his left. It’s not a massive issue – ask Arjen Robben – but you would at least what some level of competency on his right.
At 22 years old, there is still time to work on it, but it doesn’t hinder what he can do on the pitch.
Another area which hampers him is in the air. This season he averages 4.1 aerial battles per 90, but he only wins 0.5 of them. He can head the ball, but only when he’s create his own space to get free, don’t expect him to beat defenders for long high balls.
Why Rangers were smart to move for Cummings
Adding another attack who not only knows where the goal is, but has previous knowledge of Scottish football, is the ideal signing for Murty.
His goal record for Hibs was exceptional and although he’s not had the chance to show what he can do in the Scottish top flight, his combination of pace, power and deadly finishing, beside Morelos, would make the Gers a much more dangerous unit in the final third.
Able to score with his head and his feet, he can also bend in some wonderful free-kicks. He knows how to use defenders own movement against them and times some of his runs to perfection.
Even if Forest can’t see it, Cummings has great potential and a spell at Ibrox could be exactly what he needs to keep him in contention for a place in the Scotland squad.