Glasgow Rangers have caught everyone by surprise as Steven Gerrard’s side have surged to the top of the Scottish Premiership ahead of their arch-rivals Celtic.
Rangers romped to a stunning 8-0 win over Hamilton Academical before the international break, which means they kept their first clean sheet since conceding three against Benfica in the Europa League.
It’s worth remembering the Gers have had their fair share of injuries so far this season, with the likes of Joe Aribo, Borna Barisic and Kemar Roofe spending spells on the sidelines. And that’s not to mention Nikola Katic, who has been ruled out of action for the majority of the season so far after he suffered an ACL injury during pre-season training.
Their focus now shifts once again to Aberdeen, whom they beat away at the Pittodrie Stadium on the opening day of the season. The two sides will meet again in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday afternoon and Gerrard will have left no stone unturned as he seeks to stop Celtic from winning ten in a row.
Despite their recent form, the Rangers manager isn’t afraid of ringing several changes in order to get the right formula. Gerrard has switched between a 4-2-3-1 formation and his preferred 4-3-3 system, as well as a midfield three to a diamond on occasion.
Whilst Alfredo Morelos remains his first-choice striker for the time being at least, Jermain Defoe, Roofe and Cedric Itten have all appeared regularly, and Aribo, Scott Arfield, Steven Davis, Glen Kamara and Bongani Zungu vie for selection in the midfield.
However, one man the Ibrox boss could turn to is Jon McLaughlin, who has struggled to get some minutes under his belt since the start of the season.
The former Hearts keeper is wrestling with veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor for the Gers gloves, which is probably why he has only made nine appearances in the Premiership this season so far, although he started the game against the Accies at Ibrox.
In those nine games, McLaughlin has kept eight clean sheets, whilst he has only conceded two goals in total, via Transfermarkt.
Meanwhile, McGregor has also kept eight clean sheets in eleven games this season so far, letting in five goals in all competitions, but the fact remains that the 38-year-old isn’t getting any younger, whilst his contract will run out in 2021.
McLaughlin made 90 appearances for Sunderland in all competitions, keeping 27 clean sheets overall, whilst he won the club’s Player of the Month award in October 2018 after his fine form helped them stay unbeaten, with four wins in five league games.
It’s perhaps hardly surprising the two-cap Scotland international was once described as the best keeper in League One by former Black Cats boss Jack Ross, who said: “I’m obviously biased and there might be other managers that say it, but I believe I have the best goalkeeper in the league.
“He was outstanding for me last season, he is such a low-maintenance player in terms of how he goes about his business and he is unflappable.”
His successor Phil Parkinson went one better, saying: “Jon’s recent record puts him up there as one of the best in this division. He is calm and has a lot of experience. At Bradford, he played in a lot of big promotion games. He played in big cup games too, and always handled the pressure well.”
One thing’s for sure, the 33-year-old will be hoping that he is given a chance to prove himself against Aberdeen on Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, what was the point of signing him in the first place?