Joined in 2017, Alfredo Morelos has become a key part of the Rangers set up. Despite getting a lot of starts under the previous manager, Graeme Murty, Morelos has slightly fallen down the pecking order under new boss Steven Gerrard especially since the arrival of veteran striker Jermain Defoe in 2018.
The concept of a vintage penalty box poacher is lost in football. Nowadays, managers want a player who can drop in midfield and bring others into play. Morelos is such a forward who drops in midfield and links up play with his teammates. Not just that, him dropping in midfield has also helped his team engineer attacks quicker.
Which is also why his passes per90 is averaging 30 with an accuracy of 76.35 percent. These are really good numbers for a striker.
Against St Johnstone, you can see him attacking for the ball in midfield.
This isn’t a rare thing for a striker these days especially for Morelos who is playing predominantly in a 4-3-3 system where he acts as the fulcrum to play in Joe Aribo/Sheyi Ojo and Ryan Kent.
In the same game, he also dropped deeper to get hold of the ball and draw a foul on himself. His eagerness to always look for the ball is noteworthy and because of this, opponents try to mark him and in the process sometimes commit a foul on him. Morelos has drawn an incredible 49 fouls in the premiership this season for Rangers.
Him dropping in midfield hasn’t changed the number of shots he manages in a match. He averages 4.95 shots per 90 with 2.42 shots on target for the Gers which is elite in the league. He also has 44 shots on target in the league which is just a shot behind Celtic ace Odsonne Édouard who has 45.
Finding space and movement
Movement and finding space is not something that can be taught. It’s instinctive for strikers to sniff an opportunity and Morelos has that instinct. Often in games, he makes clever little runs into pockets of spaces foreseeing a pass.
Against Hamilton Academical, he made an intelligent run away from the centre backs to isolate himself and find space. Usually, he gets in those positions to isolate himself in space to cross. He averages 1.51 crosses per game with an accuracy of 27.59 percent.
Even in a match against St. Johnstone, he made a similar run behind the fullback in a bid to cut inside and stride through on goal.
It isn’t unusual but we don’t often see strikers hugging the flank during a game. Morelos, on the other hand, takes up a wider position several times in the match and tries to take a man on.
He is a very direct player and always looks to play progressively.
This is a very excellent trait of him. Usually, most strikers wait in the box for the ball to arrive at their feet. Morelos however, creates chances for others as well as himself.
Against St Johnstone, he made a clever pass ahead for him to chase into when backed off against a defender.
Dribbling and Possession play
How often do we see a striker dribble? Unless there is really no way to pass behind, most strikers just tend to run in space in anticipation of the ball. Morelos, on the other hand, tries to dash past the defenders with skill.
Here, he dribbled past the Hibernian defender and got in the penalty box. He averages 6.67 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 44.26%. Although when he doesn’t find a way past the opposition, he will try and keep possession of the ball as well instead of doing a risky thing.
As you can see, his possession percentage against players in several positions is well above 50%.
Speaking of him keeping possession, his hold up play is quite good too. He screens the ball pretty well under pressure and passes the ball to his teammates when they arrive. In a Europa League fixture against Porto, he demonstrated his strength and ability to play with his back to goal and regained possession for his team.
Even in a Europa League qualifying round against Midtjylland, his brilliant hold up play and passing overall coupled with a goal and two assists led to Rangers winning 4-2 away from home.
Not just that, his overall build play is an interesting one as well. The Columbian international doesn’t seem to hunt the ball down when the ball is in the opposition final third. But as soon as the ball moves upfield he presses the opponents and tries to get hold of the ball.
We can see that Morelos didn’t press the Midtjylland defenders high up the pitch. But when the ball was close to crossing the halfway line, he charged at opposition defence.
On occasions, when he doesn’t have any close options to pass the ball to, he will also switch the play by making a long pass.
Throw-ins and attacking transition
A striker isn’t always in line to ask for the ball during a throw-in. Well, Morelos is breaking all the old traditions. The Rangers striker is usually the first person in the queue waiting for the ball to drop at his feet when his teammate is looking for someone to aim the ball at. From then on, he either makes a pass back to keep possession or switch play by going long.
Morelos is one of the few forwards in the league who is also involved in the build-up play during counter-attacks.
In the image below, he anchored the attack by holding the ball and linking up with his teammate, and then darted ahead in seconds and also managed a shot on target.
This also highlights his dynamism and willingness to get involved and dash on goal.
This is one of the reasons why his touches in the penalty area are more than anybody in the league, averaging 8.5 per 90.
Clearly he is very effective during counterattacks. Morelos has made numerous accurate passes as opposed to the 3 inaccurate.
He is physically a very strong player and contests about 15.29 offensive duels per match with a success rate of 36.86 percent.
In the pic above, he easily shrugged Johnstone defender Scott Tanser and scored a wonderful goal on the counter.
During set pieces, he takes varying positions especially at the far end where he is unmarked, almost like Arsenal forward Aubameyang which gets him more opportunities to score.
He got a good chance to score against Motherwell in a corner kick because of this movement he has.
Contrary to what has been told about him, he does actually help his team out to win back possession of the ball.
He may not be tracking runners from midfield but Morelos does every bit of defensive duty as a striker should. He also stations himself as a marker when facing a free-kick.
Additionally, while defending corners he aids his team in safeguarding their goal.
From this analysis, we conclude that Morelos is a versatile forward instead of just a poacher. While he may not be a traditional winger, he is sure equipped enough to play in distinct roles in the final third of the pitch. His energy and work ethic makes him an important player in Steven Gerrard’s system.
The only thing that might not go in Morelos’s favour at Rangers is Gerrard changing his tactics every other match. While Stevie might be sticking with using the 4-3-3, his continuous chopping and changing of players do not help a target man like Morelos. It becomes difficult for him to form partnerships with his attack force.
All and all, the Rangers’ striker has improved a lot under Gerrard. 12 goals and an assist and being third in the goal-scoring chart in the league despite playing 8 matches less than top scorer Edouard is not a bad stat. There are still a few things in terms of his discipline on the field as he gets caught up in the emotion of the game in many matches and also his crossing ability that he can refine to better himself but the signs are there that it will happen for him in due course.