Rangers: How do Ibrox club solve their striker dilemma?

Rangers: How do Ibrox club solve their striker dilemma?
Michy Batshuayi scored twice for Belgium against Scotland in 2018 and is being linked with Rangers

The January transfer window is in full swing and Rangers continue to be linked with strikers as they prepare to battle on three fronts in the second half of the season.

Hearts’ Lawrence Shankland is the main domestic option being talked about in connection with Rangers. But what, or indeed whom, do Philippe Clement’s side require up top?

What the stats say

With 41 goals scored in their 20 league games so far, Rangers’ tally is second only to Celtic (53) but the Ibrox side are underperforming their xG – expected goals – of 46.6.

Perhaps more gallingly, the 41 goals have come from 410 shots, meaning Rangers are only converting 10% of the time. Six other clubs have a higher xG. With 136 of their efforts on target, the Ibrox side are finding their range around a third of the time.

Touches in the opposition box sit at 668, a steep drop from Celtic’s 960, and Rangers have 361 crosses from open play.

In reality, Rangers need a clinical edge in attack that ups that conversion rate and increases the amount of touches in the box.

Many supporters would trumpet Shankland as the answer to Rangers’ number nine dilemma. The Scotland striker has netted 19 goals for club and country this season and was the Premiership’s third top scorer last season with 24.

Hearts have said they would only consider an “exceptional” offer for the 28-year-old, who is under contract until the end of next season. Such a cost may well be prohibitive for Rangers, given their summer outlay on 10 players.

Belgium’s Batshuayi, 30, has an impressive international strike rate – 27 in 52 games – while this season he has netted eight times in 21 appearances for Fenerbahce.

Reliance on Sima & Tavernier

With Wolves attacker Fabio Silva signed on loan until the summer, the Ibrox club have effectively four players that can fulfil the number nine role.

But getting them on the pitch is proving difficult, adding weight to the fans’ clamour for a new recruit. Danilo is sidelined until April, injury-jinxed Kemar Roofe has managed just 21 appearances over the past 18 months, and Cyriel Dessers – who has contributed nine goals in 30 appearances – has looked ill at ease in the Ibrox spotlight.

In the first half of the season, Rangers have relied heavily on winger Abdallah Sima’s 15 goals and dead-ball specialist James Tavernier’s haul of 16. Senegal’s Sima will be missing for a spell due to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Former Rangers forward Billy Dodds told the BBC’s Scottish Football Podcast: “Confidence is such a factor.

“That’s where Dessers is sitting at just now. I think there’s something there. He’s taking an eternity with chances he gets. That’s down to confidence.

“I’m not saying he’s going to make it at Rangers. Maybe he just can’t handle the big club physically and mentally. He’s got to do something. I wouldn’t write him off just yet.”

Whoever is capable of getting the goals, Viaplay Cup winners Rangers have a big second half of the season in front of them.

They trail Premiership leaders Celtic by eight points but have two games in hand and, in March, Rangers will take part in the Europa League round of 16.

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