Following on from our appraisal of Nikola Katic, next in our series of Rangers Half-Term Reports is fellow central defender Filip Helander.
The Gers shipped out a reported £3 million to sign the Swedish international from Serie A club Bologna during the summer transfer window [Daily Record], but he had to bide his time before getting a run in the side.
After making just two appearances over his first two months at the club, the 26-year-old was given his first big opportunity in September’s Europa League Group G clash against Feyenoord at Ibrox. He promptly took it.
Helander showed his quality that night, putting in a composed display to help snuff out a dangerous front line.
Europe is where he’s put in his best work, particularly excelling home and away against Porto.
There have been strong domestic displays in there too, with the Gers registering an impressive 10 clean sheets from the 17 games he’s started in all competitions. He’s made two big contributions at the top end of the pitch, too.
He scored a late winner in a comeback Premiership win over Motherwell on 27th October before netting the opener in the Gers’ 3-0 League Cup semi-final win over Hearts at Hampden a week later.
However, if there’s one question mark still lingering over the big Swede, it’s his lack of pace. For the most part, his defensive nouse makes up for it, but every now and then it has been exposed.
He struggled to deal with Lyndon Dykes during a narrow away win at Livingston towards the beginning of the campaign, and looked nervy as Rangers threw away a two-goal lead at Aberdeen in early December.
A week later, during the League Cup final, bad luck would strike and see him sidelined with what was described by Steven Gerrard as a ‘quite a rare’ foot injury [BBC Sport]. A month later, when the Gers squad left for the mid-season trip to Dubai, the 6ft 4′ colossus could be spotted in a protective boot, suggesting a return isn’t imminent.
Nonetheless, Helander still played his part in a momentum-shifting second half of 2019, and generally speaking, his performances have shown why the club shelled out for him in the summer.