Rangers don't need Alfredo Morelos anymore

Rangers beat Dundee United 2-1 on Sunday afternoon in the Scottish Premiership and while it may have been a hard-fought match that required some moments of magic from James Tavernier it was also a game that Steven Gerrard’s side won in spite of Alfredo Morelos. 

As you all surely now know, the Colombian striker stole the headlines and column inches in the 12th minute of the match when he went up for a header with Mark Connolly and decided to stick an elbow in. Steven McLean gave a yellow card. It was almost certainly a red. Cue a week-long debate about it. 

I’m really not interested in arguing about Morelos’ temper and whether it’s getting any better or worse at Rangers. However, what does interest me is the far more intriguing notion that the Ibrox club may no longer care. Because Gerrard’s side don’t really need the striker anymore. 

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Don’t believe me? Well, let’s start with the Rangers manager’s comments on the matter. Where Gerrard used to get notably animated whenever Morelos lashed out last season, he now greets it with an ambivalent shrug of the shoulder. "I didn't see an elbow," said Gerrard with a passing interest in the topic. “The referee saw it and dealt with it. It was a foul and a yellow card and it's been dealt with."

Last season Gerrard wanted to get to the bottom of Morelos’ anger issues because he needed the striker to stay out of trouble and keep scoring goals for Rangers. His team relied on them to win points. This time around the Ibrox boss can afford to let it go. Not because he doesn’t care at all, but because he now has players that can easily replace the 24-year-old. And they’ve done so quite effectively this season. 

For a start, Morelos isn’t scoring nearly enough goals this season. As things currently stand the Colombian forward is joint-third in Rangers’ goal scoring charts for this current campaign with just seven goals in 21 appearances. 

Not only does Morelos fall behind Kemar Roofe’s tally of eight (despite seven fewer appearances) but when we look at the goals per 90 minutes of all of Gerrard’s strikers, Morelos sits dead last with an average of 0.35. That’s half as much as Roofe (0.71), Cedric Itten (0.53) and super sub Jermaine Defore (1). 

When we take a look at each striker’s xG we also find some evidence of Morelos underperforming for Rangers this season. Most fans would be able to tell you that from his inability to score a goal in his last six appearances, but an xG of 0.49 per 90 alongside his aforementioned goals average doesn’t look too favourably on the forward. Especially when Roofe, Itten and Defoe are all comfortably outperforming their own xG. In other words, three of Rangers’ strikers are taking their opportunities and scoring half chances. One is not. 

The natural reaction to Morelos’ dip in goal scoring would then be to suggest he does plenty more good off the ball or in setting up his teammates. But, again, there isn’t a huge amount of evidence to suggest he’s suddenly turned into a selfless target man either. 

Morelos has managed just one assist so far this season. The same amount as Roofe and one fewer than Defoe or Itten. And his xA (expected assists) per 90 stands at just 0.07, which is far poorer than Itten’s 0.27 and no better or worse than Roofe (0.06) or Defoe’s (0.07). 

In terms of actual playmaking, Morelos is currently averaging 0.51 shot assists per 90, which is comparable to Roofe’s (0.52), but far worse than Defoe’s (0.75) and Itten’s (0.88). His passes into the box and through passes per game are, again, only comparable to Defoe or Roofe’s but tend to be far poorer than Itten’s. 

That’s not to say that Morelos is suddenly a terrible player. Nor is he the fire-breathing monster that some all-too-easily label him as whenever a cheeky elbow or late kick appears on our television screens. But he also isn’t the same player that he was last year. And that’s either down to his own personal form not being up to scratch or the fact that there’s no longer the same necessity for him to be Rangers’ one-man goal machine. 

Considering the fact that the club brought in two bonafide strikers of solid quality before the start of the season, it’s very tempting to suggest that Morelos is now employed by a club that had every intention of bidding farewell to him in the summer. And one that will probably do its best to move him on this summer too. 

But that shouldn’t really come as a cause of any great concern for Rangers fans. Their manager and his team just don’t need him anymore. 

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