This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Having brought four new wingers to the club this summer, Steven Gerrard faces a mightily tough task figuring out who should lead his new-look attack this season.
Gerrard has signed Sheyi Ojo, Jordan Jones, Jake Hastie and Greg Stewart to compete with Scott Arfield and the returning Jamie Murphy for his two wide berths.
Playing a 4-3-3 for the majority of last season, the roles of the two wingers are vital for Rangers, as they’re tasked with supporting the lone striker, predominantly Alfredo Morelos, as well as chipping in with the odd goal themselves.
Ryan Kent played the role of wide-man at Ibrox expertly last season, particularly in the final few months of the campaign. His six goals and nine assists were important in his 43 outings and he formed a nice relationship with Morelos, often drifting inside to support his forward partner.
Yet, Kent’s return looks unlikely, so that leaves the current crop to fight it out for the chance to become Gerrard’s new favourite.
The one player who, so far, looks to be forcing the issue is Ojo. The Liverpool loanee has impressed as a right-winger in the early stages of this season and looks to be establishing himself in the role. His direct running style and penchant for striking at goal are some of the qualities possessed by Kent and he looks to have one of the roles nailed down already.
With the right-hand side being the 22-year-old’s to lose, that leaves the rest to battle it out on the left. One who did well in this role last season was Arfield, who brought goals to the position – he scored three times in his three starts on the left flank.
The Canadian could be pivotal this season, with his tactical flexibility opening the door for a change of shape under Gerrard. His ability to play deeper in the midfield might count against him though, as the Rangers boss is still trying to figure out who his preferred options are in that area too.
Looking at the other contenders it could well be Jones who steps up alongside Ojo given his use so far this season in the role. Yet, in Stewart, Hastie and Murphy, you have three players who would be ready to take their chance should they be afforded one.
It could be a while until we see who comes out on top, but Gerrard would be wise to decide quickly on his first-choice for that left flank. Letting the season get four or five games in without a settled front three could see crucial points dropped in the charge to topple Celtic.
With the Gers expecting to close the gap on their rivals this season, a few missed points here or there could effectively decide the fate of the domestic campaign.