Following on from our appraisal of Joe Aribo, next up in our series of Rangers Half-Term Reports is Scott Arfield.
The experienced former Premier League player was a key performer for the Gers last season, becoming a real favourite of Steven Gerrard’s.
Towards the end of that 2018/19 campaign, he proved effective in an advanced role, netting a hat-trick at Motherwell and scoring in a 2-0 win over Celtic at Ibrox.
That late-season success saw him begin this campaign as the first choice on the right side.
When he scored the Gers’ first Premiership goal at Kilmarnock on the opening day and netted away at FC Midtjylland four days later, it looked as though Bears were in for a treat.
No one saw a 22-game goal drought coming.
Yet, Arfield looked a shadow of his former self for large spells between early September and late November. His touch seemed to desert him and his lack of effectiveness saw the Gers become increasingly reliant on attacks from the left side.
It was assumed by many fans that he was feeling the effects of his involvement in the Gold Cup with Canada over the summer and was in need of a rest.
However, Steven Gerrard eventually revealed that an off-field issue had had an impact on the 31-year-old’s form [Scottish Herald].
Shortly after that revelation, the manager made a tactical switch which seems to have revived the £2.25m-rated [Transfermarkt] star.
Moving Joe Aribo into the advanced right position and dropping Arfield back into a more traditional central midfield role has worked wonders.
Able to make runs from deep rather than playing with his back to goal and looking to link up play, he suddenly seemed considerably more comfortable and performed to a much higher standard.
He ended his goal drought with the opener against Aberdeen in early December and was arguably one of Gerrard’s most consistent performers across a congested festive schedule.
With that in mind, he was unfortunate to miss out on a starting spot in the Old Firm at Parkhead, when Steven Davis’ return saw him drop to the bench.
In sum, then, a strong start and end to the first half of the 2019/20 season for the ex-Burnley man, who struggled for large periods in the middle. In 34 appearances, he mustered just three goals and four assists, a tally he’ll be looking to considerably improve upon over the second half of the season.
However, he deserves plenty of credit for playing a massive 2382 minutes, especially while dealing with his, as yet undisclosed, off-field issue.
Hopefully, there’s more to come from Arfield in 2020.