Football Features

Stats and key players behind Rangers’ remarkable start to the season

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:02, 31 October 2020 | Updated: 12:29, 3 November 2020

As we enter the first week November, Steven Gerrard has his Rangers side in an excellent position, nine points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership after gameweek 13.

Rangers have dropped just four points in their opening 13 games in the league and opened up their nine-point gap over rivals Celtic thanks to a win in the Old Firm Derby, albeit having played two additional games.

They have also been perfect in the Europa League so far, winning all five of their games including a massive 2-1 victory over Galatasaray in the final qualifying round. And it has been a squad effort, with a number of stars stepping up.

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Leading the way for the Rangers squad is captain James Tavernier, yet another talented England-born right-back amid a generation of players such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Reece James.

Across all competitions, Tavernier has been directly involved in 16 goals in 18 games, scoring 10 and recording six assists. Of those, 11 have come from set piece situations, with six penalties scored, one direct free-kick and four assists from corners. It’s easy to see why he has been linked with a move to the Premier League.

Another Englishman finding form in Scotland is summer signing Kemar Roofe. The former Leeds United forward joined from Anderlecht and is making an impact both from the start and off the bench.

Roofe has scored three goals in 467 minutes for Rangers across all competitions though one has made the headlines more than others. In Rangers’ 2-0 win over Standard Liege in the Europa League, Roofe came off the bench to secure the victory, with a 54.6-yard strike, a competition record. That record may have lasted for just one week, with former Wigan midfielder Jordi Gomez breaking it, but Roofe will hope to continue his bright start.

Roofe’s form could ease the pressure on Alfredo Morelos, whose future at Rangers has been in doubt recently. Lille were interested in the summer, but Morelos remained to score six goals in all competitions, including one in the Europa League last week.

Despite starting on the bench, Morelos came on to score the only goal in Rangers’ 1-0 win over Lech Poznan, his 21st European strike and a joint-record for the Gers (tied with Ally McCoist).

But the youth need experienced heads to guide them, and that’s exactly what the likes of Scott Arfield and Allan McGregor have done.

Arfield in particular has been key on the pitch, scoring two goals and recording three assists in the league, with only Ianis Hagi and Tavernier directly involved in more for Rangers. McGregor has shared goalkeeping responsibilities, but his presence behind the scenes will undoubtedly have a big effect, having been part of the last Rangers side to win the league in 2011.

Both Arfield and McGregor previously faced current manager Gerrard in the Premier League, for Burnley and Hull respectively.

Although some managers find it tough when rotating goalkeepers, Gerrard has struck gold with McGregor and Jon McLaughlin. In 18 games across all competitions, Rangers have kept 15 clean sheets, with only Motherwell, Hibernian and Galatasaray scoring against them.

The big question now is whether it can lead to a trophy. Their next step toward doing so would be a win over Benfica, who host Rangers in the Europa League on Thursday at 5.55pm.