19 June 2015

To Strike or Not to Strike? Rangers' Summer Transfer Needs

Editors Alan Clark and Shane Nicholson have a little debate on what Rangers should prioritize for their summer signings.


Alan:

It can be said without much argument that this is one of the most important summer transfer windows for Rangers.

There is pretty much a whole squad to rebuild in time for the first competitive game on July 25. With Mark Warburton appointed as manager, assisted by Davie Weir, supporters are excited at the prospect of how the team will play and, of course, who will be coming into the club in terms of personnel.

With investment and support promised from the board of directors, Warburton has a little freedom in identifying and recruiting the players he feels will add value to Rangers, on and off the park. This has to be two-fold – they must be good enough to win the Championship at the first time of asking - and they must be good enough to slot straight away into a Premiership title-challenging side.

In addition, these players will have to fit in with Warburton's fast-paced, attacking and possession-based style of play – and they have to conduct themselves properly off the field as well as on it.

It's an incredibly tricky task ensuring all of those elements are present in a new player. But it's one that Warburton and Weir will relish in attempting to achieve in building the squad they desire at Ibrox.

Where to start? It's a huge rebuilding job, there is no getting away from it. The club did not renew any of the 11 out-of-contract players and are now left with a first-team squad of just 15. There is arguably a need for; a goalkeeper, a right-back, two centre-backs, a winger, two centre midfielders, an attacking midfielder and two strikers. In other words, a lot.

There is a debate on placing priority on what positions Rangers need. I disagree entirely. With the size of the rebuild needed, no position should be given priority over the other. They say 'strikers win games, defenders win championships'. Well, Rangers' strikers didn't score anywhere near enough goals last season to win games. And equally, the defence was shambolic on a consistent basis which led to dropped points.

Chairman Dave King has stated there is no "upper limit" on the budget for the players needed, but that doesn't mean the club can start shelling out £3 million in fees again. Those days are a long way off. However, if the player(s) is good enough for Warburton's project, King has said they will consider it and money won't be an issue.

If it is a question of 'spend money on one great centre-back, and bring in a good striker on a free transfer' then fine. And vice-versa. It will be in Warburton's judgement depending on his targets. But for me, it doesn't make sense to only properly strengthen the defensive side of things and leave the forward areas light.

What Rangers have left is not good enough. Kenny Miller will be slower than he was last term, even though his experience (and goals here and there) did help the team. Nicky Clark has failed to replicate his 41-goal season, or anywhere near it, in the blue of Rangers. Outside of those two, the only other forwards at the club are the highly-rated pair of Calum Gallagher and Ryan Hardie.

Adding two quality strikers – who will get the side over 15 goals in the Championship – is vital. One that would be ideal and is already starting to be linked is Stevie May. Adding two players of that goalscoring calibre to the four already at the club would be great business.

That is just two holes needing filled. Anyone with decent knowledge of the game could sit and run through each position and as written above, none should be given priority over the other. It will be a testing season and one that Rangers must not falter in again.

The Championship title must be the absolute minimum delivered. To pip Hibernian and St Mirren to that, as well as compiling a squad fit for the top end of the Premiership, the squad has to be strong in all areas of the pitch.

Shane:

I asked Alan to write about why we should spend money on strikers this summer; instead he gave us a rather thorough roundup of everything we need.

But he did finally go to the discussion point at the end there (well done, Aldo) and he's horribly mistaken. Sure, our strikers as they stand are pretty pish. Miller has no legs; Clark has been a disappointment under a couple managers who didn't really know how to use him; the rest are kids.

That said, barring some amazing value signing that Warburton uncovers from the depths of who knows where there is no world in which Rangers should be fronting sizable chunks of money for a striker this summer.

To quote my man Ross EJ Hendry: "Center back. Full back. Midfield holding. Midfield attacking. All take precedent." In other words, build from the back and build through the middle. Strikers are the shiny parts of a good side and we are not a good side.

What will make us a good side is competent defenders and midfielders who can actually dictate play. With those pieces in place any striker is going to be able to score some goals in the league we're in next year. To quote the good Mr Hendry again: "Keeping out goals is number one. And second is dictating a tempo of play that will see us exploit our full time status against shite opposition."

I'm not saying we shouldn't sign any, that if some spectacular value comes available out of nowhere we don't jump in and snatch him up now with realistic long term plans in mind. I'm saying that forwards at this level are notoriously streaky and unreliable players (see: Nicky Clark) and you're better off relying on free transfers or giving youngsters in your ranks a chance before you spend good money on one when you have so many gaping holes in your side.

Put simply: unless you can find another Jelavic don't spend money on strikers this year because there's more important pieces we need in place before next summer. Build the team; add the shiny bits later.

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Keep it civil, lads.