Rangers have done well by signing Jermain Defoe on loan and here is why
The 36-year-old veteran striker has found game time come at a premium in the ongoing campaign at the Vitality Stadium. With the Cherries further securing the services of Dominic Solanke from Liverpool in a £19m deal (h/t Goal.com), his chances would have further reduced at the club.
And Rangers do seem like a good destination for the talented forward. The Gers have made a solid start to life under new manager Steven Gerrard. Halfway through the campaign, they sit second in the Scottish Premier League league, level on points with leaders and bitter rivals Celtic.
While they may have stumbled in the League Cup and the UEFA Europa League, there is no questioning that under the Liverpool legend, the Light Blues are making notable strides forward – as highlighted by their 1-0 win over Celtic in the Glasgow Derby.
However, for them to sustain their title challenge and keep up the pressure on Brendan Rodgers’ side, a couple of additions in the January transfer window would be the right way to go about things. And one position they desperately needed to strengthen is the striker’s role.
Alfredo Morelos has been in scintillating form once again and is the leading goalscorer in the Premiership with 12 goals to his name. However, Gerrard doesn’t have a lot of options to fall back upon should the Colombian succumb to injury or get suspended.
Summer signing Kyle Lafferty has found the back of the net just four times in 17 league outings. The Gers also cancelled Umar Sadiq’s loan deal after the AS Roma starlet failed to make any sort of impression at the Ibrox. And this is where Defoe could emerge as a viable solution for the Light Blues.
The 36-year-old is one of the most decorated strikers in England and has been successful wherever he has played throughout his career. Having started out at West Ham United, Defoe went on to enjoy successful spells with Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth (loan) before joining MLS outfit Toronto FC where he made a significant impact as well.
Defoe returned to England with Sunderland in 2015 and enjoyed a couple of fine campaigns with the Black Cats even as they got relegated to the Premier League. Following the Wearsiders’ relegation, Defoe joined Bournemouth in the 2017 but did not have the best of times as he finished with just four goals and one assist in 26 appearances across all competitions.
The veteran forward featured just 8 times across all competitions this term, totalling up to 254 minutes of on-field action. He may not have been involved regularly for Eddie Howe’s side this season but the Englishman, despite being 36, remains a more than capable striker. Sure, he is not the same player he was a few years ago but someone with 163 Premier League goals and 20 goals for the England national team doesn’t lose quality overnight.
Given the opportunity, the former England international is more than capable of delivering in the Scottish top division. If not as a regular starter, he could be more than a potent impact substitute. And his years of experience at the highest level is bound to come in handy as it could help Morelos learn and improve his game as well. Thus, Rangers stand to gain a lot on and off the field with Defoe in the mix.
Who is Rangers’ potential new signing Joe Aribo? Here’s a scout report
Scout Report – Joe Aribo: Rangers’ new signing
According to the London Evening Standard, Rangersare on the verge of completing the signing of Joe Aribo from Charlton Athletic on a free transfer, with the report claiming that the 22-year-old is set to undergo a medical at Ibrox.
London Evening Standard understands that Aribo, who is out of contract at Charlton at the end of this month, is set to meet up with Steven Gerrard and the Rangers squad at their pre-season training camp in Portugal.
The 22-year-old turned down offers from various Championship and Premier League sides, as well as the chance to sign a new deal at Charlton, to move north of the border, with the prospect of playing at Ibrox under former Liverpool captain Gerrard playing a big part in his decision. (h/t Evening Standard)
Aribo played a key role for the Addicks in League One this past season and was one of driving forces behind their promotion-winning campaign, as the 22-year-old contributed with 9 goals and 5 assists in 36 appearances to propel Lee Bowyer’s side to the Championship via the playoffs.
Charlton were desperate to secure his future with a new long-term deal but the interest from so many top clubs, coupled with the riches on offer elsewhere, was always going to tempt the promising youngster to depart The Valley.
Meanwhile, Rangers have already completed the signing of six new players and Aribo’s imminent arrival is set to make that seven for the summer.
They haven’t spent a fortune, though, with four out of those six signings -Steven Davis, Jordan Jones, Jake Hastie and Greg Stewart, all coming through the door as free transfers, while Sheyi Ojo has joined on loan from Liverpool.
The acquisition of Aribo is expected to add a lot of steel, depth and quality to Gerrard’s options in the middle of the park, although it remains to be seen what kind of a role the manager has in mind for the youngster next season.
The 22-year-old has been at the centre of a lot of transfer speculation this summer and he will be under pressure to live up to that hype when he makes his debut for the Gers next term.
As Aribo gets ready to complete a move to Ibrox, let us take a closer look at his background, strengths and weaknesses. Here is a detailed scout report on the 22-year-old midfielder.
Born in Camberwell, London, Aribo started playing at the youth ranks of Isthmian League Premier Division club Staines Town, winning the club’s Academy Player of the Year award back in April 2014.
He joined Charlton Athletic in the Championship in September 2015 following a successful trial and put pen to paper on a new deal in May 2016.
Aribo made his first-team debut for the Addicks against Crawley Town in an EFL Trophy group stage game back in October 2016 before earning his League One debut in the same season.
The youngster made 19 appearances for Charlton in the league in his breakthrough season and impressed with as many as 6 assists before establishing himself as one of the regulars in the 2017-18 campaign.
Aribo featured on 26 occasions for the Addicks in League One in the 2017-18 season and contributed with 5 goals and 2 assists, earning rave reviews for his performances in the process.
The 22-year-old made a total of 97 appearances for Charlton Athletic in all competitions over the course of three seasons, accumulating 16 goals and 15 assists.
Style of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Essentially a central midfielder by trade, Aribo shares a lot of similarities in traits with former Man City and Barcelona enforcer Yaya Toure.
Noted for his pace, power, drive and determination, the 22-year-old is capable of playing in multiple positions in the middle of the park, having featured in attacking midfield, box-to-box, defensive and wide roles for Charlton Athletic.
Standing at 1.83m with a towering and well-built frame, Aribo looks like a real athlete when he runs forward or challenges for the ball on the pitch, with his physicality being one of his key attributes.
An agile, energetic and tough-tackling presence in the middle, the youngster combines his raw power with his sharpness, anticipation and positioning skills to break up the play and win possession back for his team with crucial tackles and interceptions.
Blessed with plenty of upper body strength and good balance, Aribo hardly ever goes to ground after dispossessing the opposition and always looks for an opportunity to release the ball forward quickly in order to set up a brisk counter-attack.
The 22-year-old is not only a ball-winner in the middle of the park but he also plays the role of a ball carrier- driving forward with pace and aggressiveness and often picking out the right passes to create goalscoring chances.
He is not only about pace and power, though, with his dribbling skills, speed of thought, presence of mind and well-rounded shooting ability making him a more complete player.
To add to that, he is also adept at holding on to the ball in the midfield and in tight areas along the sidelines, using his physicality to ride past challenges and always making an attempt to bring his skills and technical abilities on the ball into play to retain possession.
Aribo not only excels with his range of passing and ability to switch the play but he also shows a lot of willingness to get inside the box, which is exactly the reason why bags a lot of goals and assists.
A tireless worker on and off the ball, the 22-year-old covers almost every blade of grass on the pitch and is capable of shouldering both defensive and attacking responsibilities effectively.
Coming to his weaknesses, one has to consider that all his success so far has come in the third-tier of English football. That’s not to undermine his talent and potential, though, and it is definitely worth mentioning that he is still in the developmental phase of his career.
He tends to misplace the odd pass or two in the midfield and occasionally ends up getting behind the ball or scuffs his finishes in front of goal, but those things are pretty normal for a player of his age.
It is not difficult to see why the prospect of a move to Rangers tempted Joe Aribo to the extent that he decided to further his development north of the border.
The lure of European football, coupled with the charismatic presence of Steven Gerrard at the helm of affairs and the chance to play for one of the most adored clubs in Scotland, probably prompted the 22-year-old to turn down other offers.
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However, it is worth mentioning here that Rangers will be expected to challenge Old Firm rivals Celtic for the domestic title next season, meaning that Aribo has to prove himself to Gerrard and earn his place in the team.
The 22-year-old will need to work on removing the rough edges in his game and few would back against him making a big impression at Ibrox in the years to come if he continues his development down the right path.
Slow and steady – Here’s how Klopp has successfully built a Liverpool squad that doesn’t need major additions anymore
Liverpool opinion: How Klopp has built a squad that doesn’t need major additions
Until the summer of 2015, three months before the arrival of Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool were a club that usually signed raw talents. The idea was to groom them over two to three seasons and then the big clubs would snap those up players to enhance the quality of their own squads.
For instance, at the end of a rollercoaster 2013/14 campaign where the Steven Gerrard slip was famous and Brendan Rodgers’ Reds missed the title by a whisker, the club were more scared of losing their best player Luis Suarez instead of readying themselves to work wonders again the following season.
That fear eventually turned into reality when the Uruguayan made his move to Barcelona and Liverpool had to contend with replacements of the likes of Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli, who, with all due respect, are nowhere near Suarez’s quality.
Arrival of Klopp
When Jurgen Klopp arrived in October 2015, the first of many challenges lying ahead of him was to turn his squad and the city of Liverpool from doubters to believers. And those were the German’s words during his first interview as well.
It took him some time but the former Borussia Dortmund boss has got it right in due course of time.
When he first arrived, muscle injuries to players and inconsistency was the general theme of things. However, the manager remained calm and kept working to improve the quality of this squad.
In terms of transfer activities, the research work of Michael Edwards, the inputs of Michael Gordon, and Klopp’s trust in the duo have worked wonders in the past two to three summer windows.
The trio has a specific open-book style of work when it comes to identifying players who can better their squad. They don’t always look for the big names; rather the focus is on matching the profile of the player with the system of play currently deployed at Melwood training centre.
Because of this, we have seen since the summer of 2016 that despite not spending enormous money, they have built a squad worthy of challenging for every trophy possible in European and English football.
Furthermore, there is a belief among the players that they can win special things here rather than just making personal progress and win trophies elsewhere.
Shrewd transfer businesses
Not many approved of that transfer but the combo of Klopp-Gordon-Edwards had faith in their process and now, the left-back is one of the best in the world.
Liverpool also signed Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in subsequent summers and gelled them with Roberto Firmino as one of the deadliest front lines in Europe.
While these things were put into place, the need for a commanding centre-back was apparent. Virgil van Dijk was earmarked as the transfer target in the summer of 2017 but Southampton weren’t happy with how Liverpool approached them for the transfer.
At this point in time, any other manager would have panicked and looked for alternative solutions but not Klopp.
He remained calm while Edwards and co. took their time to repair the broken relationship with Southampton and eventually, Van Dijk’s transfer was completed six months after the desired time.
With Loris Karius committing blunders in the 2018 Champions League final, Alisson had to be bought and Liverpool did just that, convincing Roma to sell the Brazilian to them ahead of Chelsea or Real Madrid (h/t Metro).
Same was the case with the signings of Fabinho, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Klopp-Edwards-Gordon trio earmarked these progressive midfield players as their targets and got the deals done without much trouble.
Squad is complete and doesn’t require major additions
Having won the Champions League three weeks back, Liverpool are in a situation where they can approach any big player this smmer.
However, things have been pretty quiet so far and the focus should only be on adding backups in certain positions rather than going helter-skelter to enhance the quality of a certain area.
The goalkeeping options are fixed, with Alisson as number one and Simon Mignolet as the backup. The back four are settled, apart from the fact that they need Andy Robertson’s backup after the departure of Alberto Moreno.
The midfield is an area where Liverpool are most complete. With Naby Keita taking time to settle in his first season at Anfield and Oxlade-Chamberlain expected to be fully fit during this pre-season, they will be like new signings for the club. Adam Lallana looks adamant to stay at the club and fight for his place in the team.
In the front line, the trio of Mane, Salah and Firmino are fixed, with able support coming from Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri. Also, expect the promising Rhian Brewster to get some game time next season.
Besides a new left-back, they would do well by signing an extra winger, who can deputise for Salah/Mane as per the requirement.
Reading through Liverpool’s slow yet steady progress in terms of building their squad goes to show that trust, clarity in thought and focus on a strong foundation are the most important things in club football.
For this reason, the Reds are quiet in this transfer window and two more backup additions would further enhance their chances of challenging for more trophies next season.
Despite tailing off since January, here’s how Bielsa can turn Leeds into a formidable force once again
Leeds opinion: How Bielsa can improve the Whites after trailing off since January
Until last Christmas, Leeds United were one of the best teams in the Championship and were well on their way to at least finish second in the table.
However, things took a downward curve since the turn of this year and here we are now talking about them remaining in England’s second-tier for at least one more season.
While we will take an in-depth look as to why this drop in performance happened, it is worth noting that Leeds United hired Marcelo Bielsa to get them back into the Premier League and stay there for years to come.
If the Whites are to keep the Argentine, the squad really needs to step up in the next 12 months and achieve the first target – promotion to the top-flight.
Now, let’s take a look at why there was a significant drop in their performances since the turn of the year and how Bielsa and co. can learn from that to improve next time around:
Injuries and high-intensity system
After his arrival last summer, the first few months of the Bielsa-era went smoothly, with the team playing an attractive brand of football and winning games in style.
But injuries to key players during the festive period started to take a toll on their performances, chiefly due to the fact that the Whites do not boast of a deep squad with high-quality players.
Once a first-choice player of a particular position got injured, it was always a struggle for the manager to replace him. Either there was a drop in quality or the gaffer had to shoehorn someone in that slot.
Furthermore, Bielsa struggled to replace Samu Saiz with an attacking midfielder of similar quality. There were numerous players tried in the dual number 10 position but none of them took the opportunity by the scruff.
In Bielsa’s system, full-backs have to do a lot of running, which is unlike what other managers did at Elland Road. Thus, injuries/drop in performances due to fatigue was a natural phenomenon.
In fact, left-back Barry Douglas, who was signed from Wolves last summer, missed a huge chunk of the season while right-back Luke Ayling struggled for consistency.
Due to a lack of proper backups in central defence, the manager had to field defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips in that position for quite a lot of games.
Thus, it has to be said that these things are not ideal to sustain the course of a 46-game season.
Now, the challenge for Bielsa is to get the players more attuned to playing his style of football for a longer period of time without fatigue and make intelligent signings to enhance the depth of the squad.
Once these two things happen to a certain extent, we can say that Leeds would have a great chance to go all the way next season.
It is fairly evident as to where Leeds and Bielsa have to improve if they are to get promoted to the Premier League.
The upcoming pre-season is very important for this team and the manager, as they should look to build on from the disappointments of last season rather than going into the shell.
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