The performance last night was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde affair. Rangers started off promisingly in the first 10/15 minutes then Newcastle took over, and took the lead.
The second half produced a much better display with some of the changes having a huge impact. The result doesn’t matter in preseason games but there were a few positives to take from the game as a whole.
Let’s look at a few positive and negatives from the performance.
I had tweeted out before the game claiming fans might be surprised by the 25-year-old Englishman. He also surprised me though! He played with so much energy, covered a lot of ground, pressed whenever possible and consistently got in the faces of the Newcastle players.
Technically he looks excellent, very composed on the ball and always tries to get it forward. He pretty much reminded me of a left footed Todd Cantwell.
He looks to be an excellent option as a number 8 if last night was anything to go by. Like Cantwell, he’ll be comfortable switching between the 8 and 10 roles.
Kieran Dowell could prove to be a very shrewd piece of business on a free transfer. I was impressed.
Nico Raskin and Ianis Hagi
The big difference maker in the game was Raskin and Hagi coming on for Lundstram and Jack respectively. They added so much energy and tenacity to a midfield which had been lacking it the whole game.
Rangers build up was quicker, the passes were shorter and sharper. They just looked much better with those two in the middle.
Nico Raskin is genuinely outstanding. I truly believe if he performs how he did last night for the whole season, Rangers will be lucky to have him next year. He was confident and positive with the ball, always trying to drive at the Newcastle defence. His dogged approach to pressing helped Rangers win the ball back and start attacks on numerous occasions. The below clip epitomises exactly that;
He has so much quality on the ball and is never afraid to be brave in possession. I believe he will be key to Rangers success in this upcoming season. I also wouldn’t be surprised, if he keeps up that level of performance, that this could be his only full season in Scotland.
Ianis Hagi put in his best performance since returning from injury, against, arguably, the toughest opponent he’s faced. The Romanian international looked sharp and as if he had regained his confidence on the ball. Much the same as Raskin, he was direct and positive when in possession and it was a joy to see. He really looked like the Ianis Hagi of old and that is a player who can really contribute for the club next season, or be sold on for a healthy price.
B Team Boys Impress
Bailey Rice and Johnly Yfeko both got 20 minutes last night and showed they could be first team quality in the upcoming season. Rice plays with the composure of a much more experience midfielder. He manages to make it look like he always has time on the ball and isn’t afraid to be brave in possession. If he doesn’t choose to drive with the ball he’s always looking to make a forward pass and get the attack going. It’s honestly incredible to think that he’s only 16-years-old, he’s potentially one of the best prospects Rangers have had come through in years (I know he was bought from Motherwell).
Yfeko I’ve been aware of since he was signed from Leicester but never managed to see much of him. The 20-year-old replaced John Souttar last night and looked commanding and confident. He looked to receive the ball at every opportunity and positioned himself well when Newcastle were attacking. He’s a tall and imposing figure, who many fans were comparing to Calvin Bassey after his performance. If he could manage to get to those levels, Rangers will be laughing!
I’m not getting too far ahead of myself though, but I will say he looked impressive in his 20 minute cameo. Alex Lowry also managed to get 10 minutes in and almost scored a lovely goal! He showed some good touches last night and I hope, if he’s not going to get minutes at Rangers, he gets a loan move to gain first team minutes. There’s a quality player in Alex Lowry and I would hate to see his potential go to waste.
Sam Lammers Could be Special
I’m fully on board the hype train with the 26-year-old Dutch forward. He struggled to get involved in the beginning of the game but when he did, he showed some glimpses of real quality. He picks up excellent positions in the middle of the pitch and often found himself in acres of space. You can see he’s a really intelligent footballer that just knows where to be to get a chance to create something.
His first touch is probably the best I’ve seen from a Rangers forward since Jelavic and anyone who watched the Croatian knows that’s a massive compliment. I was impressed by his work within the press last night. He didn’t give any of the Newcastle defenders or midfielders a moment to breathe. This was highlighted in the goal he picked up;
He not only presses very cleverly, he nicks in at the right time, gets the ball under control then has the composure and ability to slot it under Karius, great goal. He just exudes confidence and composure with the ball at his feet. I’m very excited to see what he can do for Rangers in the SPFL and in Europe.
Read more of my thoughts on Lammers here.
Fashion Sakala and Borna Barisic Aren’t Good Enough
Both players had poor evenings and, for me, their performances took away the excitement from some of the debuts and encouraging football. It’s tough watching Sakala constantly run the ball out of play. It’s also incredibly frustrating watching Barisic attempt to defend.
I’m not sure I can go through another season watching Sakala be so up and down. One minute he’s scoring a world class goal then the next he just runs the ball straight out of the pitch aimlessly. If the rumours of any Saudi clubs being interested for around £4m are true then I would implore Rangers to accept it. He looks even worse when you’re comparing him to someone like Lammers. It’s going from someone with an excellent first touch to someone who’s first touch resembles a toddlers at times. If the money is there, in my opinion, Rangers have to take it.
As for Barisic, his defending is genuinely embarrassing at times. He looks so lost when trying to defend his man or get back into position. His position sense is borderline awful and it’s tough to watch it week in, week out. It doesn’t help his case that when Ridvan came on, Rangers looked much better defensively on that side.
The only thing with Barisic is that with the height added this summer, his set piece delivery could be key into getting goals. Lammers, Dessers and Sima are all good threats in the air and could benefit from his terrific left foot. Is that enough to keep him though? I would say no and if £2m was on the table, I would take it.
There were some other positives last night, John Souttar was excellent (as always), Ridvan had another positive appearance and I believe Sima could be a real problem for opposition defences.
On the other hand, Matondo’s touch and final ball let him down, as it did last season. Ryan Jack and John Lundstram also looked well off of the pace and based off of last nights performances shouldn’t be near a starting spot.
That being said, I was encourage by the performance, especially in the second half when Raskin and Hagi came on. Dowell, Lammers and Sima all had moments in where they looked bright. I may be speaking too early, but I feel good about the upcoming season. Did you learn anything from last nights performance? Who impressed you the most and who were you disappointed by?