Is Jermain Defoe the difference maker for Steven Gerrard?
Earlier in the week, Rangers announced seldom-used Bournemouth striker Jermain Defoe's arrival on loan for 18 months. Unable to find playing time at Dean Court, the move was a good decision for the 36-year-old. With positioning and anticipation now his best assets rather than speed and agility, Defoe doesn't fit into Eddie Howe's plans. With experience lacking in Steven Gerrard's squad as they push for an SPL title, the former England international is more welcome north of the border.
Rangers disconnected from their rich history when they went through administration and began life anew in the third tier. They have closed the gap with Celtic significantly this term, as their recent victory in the Old Firm Derby proved. Gerrard intends to close the gap fully this season if he can.
His former manager at Liverpool and current nemesis at Celtic Park, Brendan Rodgers, signed veterans like Kolo Toure in his first Scottish campaign to ensure his first title. Like Defoe, age had caught the Ivorian in the Premier League but he still had much to offer in a less demanding competition. Whether or not Defoe delivers on the pitch, he will be a valuable influence in the clubhouse.
That said, the former Spurs and Sunderland forward has talent and savvy to bring to bear. He will compete for a starting role. Colombian Alfredo Morelos has 14 goals and four assists to lead the attack. James Tavernier adds seven and nine, Scott Arfield six and four.
Match that with Celtic’s group. Odsonne Edouard cancels out Morelos in both categories but James Forrest and Scott Sinclair surpass Gerrard's second and third options with 10 goals and six assists for the former, eight and two for the latter.
The scoring stats reflect the closeness in the table where the two teams are level although Celtic hold a game in hand. If Defoe is given an opportunity to find his footing on Scottish turf, he should make Gers a more potent force in the final third. He reached double figures in eight Premier League seasons and boasts just over 200 goals in the English top flight. Surely, that level of experience has something to offer.
The qualities Defoe offers are the ones a young Light Blues side must develop. Gerard understands. For the rookie manager, the opportunity to add a leader on the pitch was a worthy risk and why he sanctioned the deal to bring his former England colleague to Ibrox. The former Liverpool captain probably wishes he could step on the pitch himself but those days are gone. Having a field general he knows and trusts at such an early stage in his managerial career is vital.
Rangers have gotten a three-in-one deal. Jermain Defore brings experience, leadership and goals. Come May, they hope for a fourth benefit. A Scottish Premier League title would be their 55th in 128 years but the first since reforming in 2012. They say everything old comes new again. This spring, we'll see.