The impending return of both Alfredo Morelos and James Tavernier will, as the old saying goes, be like signing two new players for Rangers. Jermain Defoe played up front for the Ibrox club at the three games his fellow forward has missed due to suspension and also scored two goals. Nathan Patterson and Jon Flanagan, meanwhile, did fine against Stranraer and St Mirren while their routine right-back was recovering from surgery. Yet, Steven Gerrard’s side are simply not, as they slumped to a costly defeat against Hearts without skipper Tavernier along with their first-choice striker Morelos, as was evident yesterday. They should be a different team with the key duo back in the beginning line-up.
Rangers would do well to bring in a player or players between now and the end of the January transfer window on Friday to fortify their title challenge. Up front especially. Gerrard – who was thrilled to tie up Defoe on a pre-contract agreement on Saturday – has previously admitted he is unlikely to conduct much, if any, company this month. However, the 2-1 defeat in the capital, so his side cannot leapfrog Celtic near the peak of this Ladbrokes Premiership table if they win their game in hand against St Johnstone at home, showed that a fresh face would not go amiss. The visitors had few problems creating chances. It was scoring them that was the issue . Ryan Kent put the away side ahead in the second-half together with his sixth goal since his £6.5 million transfer from Liverpool in September. But neither he nor his group mates could replicate that end and they paid a hefty price due to their lack of ruthlessness. The choices available to the guy watching from the dugout, nevertheless, were non-existent. The former Liverpool and England midfielder put on Scott Arfield for Ryan Jack, Matt Polster for Flanagan and Sheyi Ojo for Glen Kamara. But he didn’t have another specialist centre forward at his disposal. That’s a problem, his opposite number at Parkhead does not have any more. Neil Lennon had his £9 million signing Odsonne Edouard and brand new £3.5 million arrival Patryk Klimala on his bench on Saturday. He managed to substitute Leigh Griffiths with Edouard at the second half of the league game against Ross County and viewed as his replacement scored the final two goals in a win. Gerrard identified a lack of strength in depth in his group last season and set about rectifying that through another summer of recruitment. He now has at least two grade players, sometimes in each position on the playground. But he seems short up top. Defoe has established money well spent this term. The fact he’s netted no fewer than 16 goals in the 2019/20 campaign is impressive given how limited his match time has been. He is every bit as sprightly as when he made his debut in the game some 19 years back. Keeping him beyond May in Govan makes sense on many levels. Until he’s 40, he can play.
But can he be relied on should Morelos picks up an injury or a different ban at his age to be available? Possessing another attacker would help his team keep the pressure in their town rivals. Just look at the effect Liam Boyce created for Hearts. The winner was scored by the Northern Ireland internationalist, albeit after a deflection, on his introduction for the Gorgie club he joined a week. Celtic fans celebrated the loss Rangers endured every bit as much as their counterparts that were Hearts. However, it won’t be the twist between today and the Premiership fixture. There are another two Old Firm games to play for a start. Money well-spent could be proven by signing another striker, either on loan or permanently.