Rangers have found their own Callum McGregor
With Rangers 1-0 and dominating against rivals Old Firm on April 3rdAnge Postecoglou asked one of his players, as the old saying goes, “to take the game by the scruff of the neck”.
Luckily, Celtic have a metronomic brain in midfield who has made a career out of it.
“They needed someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck because it was all Rangers,” former Scotland international Kenny Miller told the BBC after Callum McGregor forced his way into the hosts’ box and set up Tom Rogic’s equalizer, laying the groundwork. for a comeback win that put Celtic on the path to a tenth league title in the last ten years.
“He picked up the ball and he just shoved the heart out of them. And even at the end – even though he stretches – he still managed to put his right foot on the ball to bring it back to his teammate (Rogic).
Rangers simply failed to respond to the colossal performance of the Glasgow-born Celtic conductor’s captain. If ’42’ is, as Douglas Adams joked, the ‘meaning of life, the universe, everything’ then it’s an appropriate shirt number for a man who, amid Kyogo Furuhashi’s brilliance and Filipe Jota, remains the driving force behind a title charge to the chest.
Rangers want Paul Akouokou
It might be unfair to expect Paul Akouokou to emulate McGregor’s impact across town. Spanish publication AS claim that Rangers are keen on the Real Betis enforcer.
But if Giovanni van Bronckhorst had the 6ft 3in Ivorian standing at the base of his midfield in a 2-1 home defeat that put the title within reach for Celtic, McGregor might not have not make this game-changing aid so simple.
Akouokou, 24, like McGregor, is a midfielder who can do it all. He can break up attacks on one end, using his formidable frame and telescoping legs to regain possession, before dropping down the other. Leaving his opponents in his wake with a perfectly timed burst of power and pace.
Only one midfielder in the Rangers squad – the rarely seen James Sands – can match Akouokou’s average of 1.8 successful tackles per game (WhoScored). He averages far more interceptions per 90 minutes (1.4) than Ryan Jack, Glen Kamara, Steven Davis and even John Lundstram.
His success rate – 88% – shows that he is as effective in possession as without.
“The role model is Yaya Touré”
The rangers are not lacking in quality in the center of the park. But while Van Bronckhorst has his fair share of specialists, he’s no jack-of-all-trades, master of everything like McGregor. Akouokou provides Lundstram’s strength, Jack’s aggression, Davis’ passing range and Joe Aribo’s drive.
“He plays very well as a ‘sentinel’ in front of the defence,” a source familiar with Akouokou told Estadio Deportivo.
“But he is also capable of playing a playmaking role. In Israel (at Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Rishon LeZion) he played as a number eight. He had more freedom and even scored goals.
“Today he fills the role of a hard-working midfielder, but his role model is Ivory Coast football star Yaya Toure. Frankly, he is a player with huge potential.
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