Rangers have utilised the loan system with varying degrees of success in recent seasons but director of football, Mark Allen, could be well served dipping into the English Premier League market again this January.
Rangers are in a predicament when it comes to incoming transfers this window as, not only did Pedro Caixinha board spend the vast majority of the funds made available by the board in the summer, Graeme Murty’s current status as interim manager until the end of the season complicates matters.
Jamie Murphy and Sean Goss have been brought in so far, suggesting that any permanent signings will have a proven track record in British football record, while short-term loans will be used to add squad depth until a manager is appointed in the summer when he can plan long-term.
Rangers botched that aspect of their recruitment in the summer, with current loanees Aaron Nemane and Dalcio Gomes expected to return to their parent clubs after looking out of their depth in the little game time they’ve been given.
Rangers need to refine the type of loan player they borrow if they are to come in and make an immediate impact in Scottish football, as the age, experience and physicality have to combine to present a suitable profile.
The difficulty in identifying players who are ready for competing at the top end of the Premiership is that the only exposure to competitive football most have had is in the EFL Trophy as they play the majority of their games in the often pedestrian Premier League 2 Division.
While it is desirable for potential loan players to have professional games under their belt, it is common for clubs to keep promising players in their own ranks for longer now as the age players fully transition into first-teams squads can be well into their twenties.
Technical ability is not usually in shortage when shopping in the Premier League pool but it is crucial that any loan signings possess the physical attributes and mental fortitude to enable them to showcase their talents in Scotland, which is renowned for its all-action approach.
Brandon Barker is a prime example of what good scouting can achieve as it was a coup for Hibs to be able to acquire a player with a full Eredivisie season behind him, and one of the better established players in the Citzens’ under-21 squad.
The status of the Scottish league prohibits those who have been on the fringes of top-six squads or who have a few loan spells at Championship level under their belt like James Wilson at Manchester United or Chelsea’s Lewis Baker.
While there are more prestigious leagues to serve their apprenticeship, the scale of Rangers makes it an attractive club for players to gain experience with the quality of facilities and the expectation of 50,000 fans every second week – as Arsene Wenger choosing to allow Gedion Zelalem to spend a season in the second tier of Scottish football attests to.
Which areas need strengthened?
Murphy will presumably play on the left wing of a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 but Daniel Candeias and the recently recalled Michael O’Halloran is the only other player whose favoured position is out wide.
All three are heavily right-footed and the lack of naturally left-sided players on both wings and in the attacking midfield role leave the squad in need of addressing that imbalance.
Eduardo Herrera is likely to be offloaded and Ryan Hardie is unlikely to reach the required all-round game to become a first-team member, which leaves just Alfredo Morelos and Josh Windass as forward options.
Rangers put in the most crosses of any team in the league but neither player is particularly strong in the air, so Rangers could do with a physical presence despite Morelos’ ability to hold off defenders well.
The type of midfielder Rangers are crying out for is one who can link the play high up the park and has the intricacy to create in and around the box as most teams deploy a low-block at Ibrox.
Murty used a midfield diamond successfully for four games, so with the idea of flexibility in mind, I have compiled a list of players who possess the attributes that add something different to the Rangers squad.
Club: Liverpool Age: 21 Position: Attacking midfield Height: 6ft Preferred foot: Right
The England under-20 World Cup winner is a former academy player of both Arsenal and Chelsea, and would add bundles of creativity to the Rangers midfield.
He has occupied a variety of positions in his ten Premier League 2 games, appearing at the base, left side and apex of Liverpool’s midfield diamond, but he is at his best when he operates in more advanced areas.
It is difficult to deny the instant similarities with Paul Pogba in terms of their movements, and it is not hyperbolic to suggest that he has the talents to match in some areas.
At 6ft tall, he looks around 4 inches taller such is his imposing figure, but he doesn’t rely on his pace and power to dictate his game.
Ejaria has sublime feet in tight areas and is constantly looking to inject pace into moves and supply penetrative passes. He can drift into wide areas to change the angle at which he plays through the thirds if he finds the middle of the park congested, and it is that increase in tempo after he plays the initial pass forward before combining as he strides up the field that makes him such a stand-out at that level.
Ejaria wouldn’t suffer under the strain of having the opposition place every man behind the ball and block the central areas. His innate sense of space allows him to turn away from pressure with unerring composure and his dazzling change of pace, both when accelerating and slowing down as he turns, makes it difficult to challenge such a dominant frame.
Ejaria hasn’t had first-team experience yet be he is undoubtedly one of the most impressive talents in the EPL 2 and offers off-the-ball runs from central positions, a quality absent in all Rangers midfielders now that Carlos Pena has returned to Mexico.
The Liverpool youngster has a cocky streak in him that makes me believe he would could cope with the demands of playing for Rangers. Would be a certain starter.
Club: Tottenham Age: 19 Position: Forward Height: 5ft 9 Preferred foot: Right
The stocky centre-forward has an all-round game that would be a great asset.
Sterling is not too dissimilar to Morelos in how he holds up the ball but his link-up play is better and he covers the ground quicker too.
Sterling’s first touch is effortless and the ease with which he turns opposition defenders when they get too tight is reminiscent of Michael Mols.
Sterling has the look of a natural finisher when he cuts inside to curl the ball home and doesn’t try to force a shot if there are better options available.
Outstanding against the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in the UEFA youth league, he would be a threat to Scottish defences playing alongside Morelos.
Club: Liverpool Age: 20 Position: Forward/attacking midfield/right wing Height: 5ft 7 Preferred foot: Left
The Welsh forward is not a new name, having been in an around the Liverpool first-team squad for a few seasons.
He made his debut in January last year and became the youngest ever player to play for Wales when Chris Coleman brought him on as a substitute versus Belgium, aged just 16.
Wilson is prolific at under-23 level, scoring 21 goals in 28 starts over the last two seasons, but it appears that Liverpool have been holding him back until he physically matures.
He isn’t a player who possesses great pace to make up for his small stature but he is technically excellent and would provide a creative spark and end product that Rangers are in need of.
Left-footed, he can play as part of a front two or behind the striker, but is also adept at coming in off the line to combine at the edge of the box where he can find space to shoot.
Wilson had a loan spell a couple of years ago at Crewe but he has improved his consistency in the final third to become someone who could break down packed defences.
Club: Stoke Age: 20 Position: Forward/Left wing Height: 6ft 1 Preferred foot: Right
The young Belgian forward has blistering pace and would add a different dimension to the Rangers frontline.
He can also operate on the left flank where his timing of runs in behind the full-back are dangerous but he is more suited to being the focal point of an attack where he can link-up and bring others into play.
Ngoy is a rough diamond but there is great potential with the raw attributes he has. Extremely difficult to push off the ball, if he is allowed to focus his game on becoming a powerful centre-forward rather than being shifted out to the wing where he looks less natural, he will develop into a handful.
The Stoke forward would compliment Morelos well and would also offer an alternative to Murphy if pace is what is required late on in games.
Club: Chelsea Age: 17 Position: Attacking midfield/ Height: 6ft Preferred foot: Right
The Chelsea winger may seem on the young side to be touted for a loan move but he is such an exceptional talent hat he has regularly been the most potent attacking force in Chelsea’s under-23s.
After his starring performances that helped England to become under-17 World Cup champions in the summer, Hudson-Odoi’s name is now known but this may be the last season where he is a realistic target as it is inevitable that many of that crop will reach the elite level needed to break into their respective clubs’ first eleven.
With pace to burn and dazzling feet, he has the athletic build to match his innate talent already. Able to eliminate defenders when left isolated out wide or played centrally where he can have more of an influence in changing the pace of attacks, he would add a special ingenuity even if his age does mean that he is prone to the odd showmanship at the wrong time.
Club: Manchester United Age: 18 Position: Attacking midfield/left wing Height: 6ft Preferred foot: Left
Having played all his football at under-18s, Chong would be the riskiest choice, but he looks such a sublime talent that it is difficult to envisage him looking out of place.
At that tender age, there are very few players who look like they have perfected so many facets of the game but Chong falls into that category.
Possessing a distinctive Afro and standing at six feet tall with a skinny build, the Dutchman is instantly recognisable in the middle of the park.
He can play on both flanks but when he is in the middle of the park orchestrating play he looks unplayable such is his awareness of space and passing ability where he can disguise balls into the striker’s feet.
While Chong wouldn’t look as quick at senior level as he does in the youth leagues, his acceleration and balance sees him glide by players, while he has an uncanny ability to rescue the ball when it looks like it is running away from him and make it into a one-two.
Club: Manchester City Age: 19 Position: right wing/ attacking midfield/ left wing Height: 5ft 8 Preferred foot: Left
A product of the Ajax academy, Dilrosun is a relentless dribbler of the ball who possesses frightening pace.
While he is well accustomed to coming in off the right flank and taking players on due to his superb balance, he can play centrally and on the opposite wing too.
A temperamental player who has to be more selective when choosing to be single-minded and keeping it simple, his unique qualities are too great to ignore because of wastefulness.
The Dutch youth international is the sort of player who, when Rangers shift the ball quickly to one flank, can make the overload count as he only needs a yard of space to burst into and then there is no catching.
Dilrosun would need to learnt to adapt to the intensity of the Scottish game and speed up his decision making as he won’t be afforded the time to take superficial touches.
Mark Allen will know of the player’s ability, but Nemane’s failed loan may scupper any deal.
Club: West Ham Age: 20 Position: Attacking Midfield/left wing Height: 6ft 2 Preferred foot: Right
It looked like Samuelsen would break into the Hammers’ senior squad after his loan spell at Peterborough in 2015/2016 where he impressed with his intricate footwork and penetrative passing.
His progression has stalled but there is undoubtedly untapped potential as he oozes class when in possession. The Norwegian returned to the League One side last season but, while he showed flashes of his ability, he still had to settle for a substitute on occasion as his status as a luxury player went against him.
Playing up to the Scandinavian stereotype, if he was any more laid back he would be horizontal. In a team like Rangers, however, where he would see more of the ball and given license to express himself, his subtle touches and vision to take advantage of the slightest gap in a defence would come to the fore.
Club: Bournemouth Age: 21 Position: Attacking midfield Height: 5ft 7 Preferred foot: Right
The American spent the second half of last season at Ibrox and was impressive until Pedro Caixinha took charge and limited him to a role on the right side of a rigid midfield.
At times, it was obvious that he was on a different wavelength to his teammates apart from Jon Toral and Barrie McKay, but in an advanced role within an improved team, he could prove pivotal to providing Alfredo Morelos with ammunition from central areas.
Warburton tended to play him deeper than he would probably have liked due to the absence of a playmaker, but with Rya Jack and Sean Goss looking likely to occupy the two deeper positions, Hyndman could channel his creativity higher up the park.