SPL

Lafferty offers Gerrard solution to any attacking problem

 • by Stefan Bienkowski
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With no fewer than 15 new arrivals at the club this summer, even the most ardent Rangers fan would be forgiven for forgetting everyone that has arrived at Ibrox of late.

Yet one player that was signed in the dying moments of the transfer window certainly registered  in the consciousness of almost all football fans in Scotland.

While Steven Gerrard spent much of his first six months at Rangers scooping up young players from Liverpool or scouting solid replacements from around Europe, it was the return of Kyle Lafferty from Hearts that garnered the biggest cheer from the Ibrox faithful.

Lafferty harps back to a previous era in the club’s history in which winning league titles at Celtic’s expense was far easier. And although the Northern Irish international is now 30 years old, he is back at the club with every intention of offering something to Gerrard’s side.

So why exactly have Rangers resigned the towering striker and will he be of any use to Gerrard’s squad for the remainder of the season?

To answer that question it may be worth considering Lafferty’s previous game; the 1-0 defeat to Celtic. Although it was a rather tepid performance, it was one in which Lafferty was able to slot in alongside Alfredo Morelos as a wide forward and run the lines while Rangers attempted to play in a defensive manner.

Indeed, Lafferty’s greatest asset at this point in his career is probably the simple fact that he can slot in across a front three and in each position perform that specific role perfectly well.

Although Rangers have signed a huge array of players, the only other forward at the club before Lafferty arrived was 21-year-old Roma loanee Umar Sadiq, who doesn’t seem to be a priority in Gerrard’s plans going forward.

Yet whether tasked with playing as a No.9 in the box to win headers, or deployed to take on full backs and cut inside as a wide forward, the Northern Irish forward seems perfectly comfortable doing both. And for Gerrard’s team that may prove invaluable in the coming months.

That’s not to say that Lafferty is just flexible player that can do an average job in two or three positions. The 30-year-old has proven himself as a perfectly capable striker within Scottish football and would surely slot in as an ideal backup if Morelos were to pick up a long-term injury.

Last season at Hearts, Lafferty averaged 0.41 goals per 90 minutes. Although that may not be as impressive as Morelos’ 0.59 goals per 90 minutes, it’s still a solid record and one that he achieved despite the resolute defensive manner of Craig Levein’s Hearts side.

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For huge chunks of the Scottish Premiership season the towering striker was Hearts’ only source for goals, while Morelos spearheaded a team that would go on to score more than any other come May. The Colombian is a better goalscorer, but perhaps not by as much as last season’s tallies would suggest.

Lafferty also brings a completely different approach to goalscoring which could be used in tandem with Morelos’ style of poaching in and around the opposing box for goals.

Where the sturdy Colombian prefers to tap goals in at the front post, Lafferty is perhaps most comfortable pulling lofted balls out of the air, or heading in set pieces with relative ease.

Essentially, Gerrard now has a striker that he can reasonably rely upon to score a similar rate of goals to his first choice, but also one that can attack defences in a completely different manner to the current status quo.

In many ways Lafferty offers the new Rangers manager the perfect Plan B if things stop going according to plan.

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