What does Graham Dorrans bring to the Rangers starting XI?

Graham Dorrans netted twice against Motherwell last week. Picture: PA
Graham Dorrans netted twice against Motherwell last week. Picture: PA
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Ahead of the big match between Rangers and Hibs tomorrow, we have a closer look at players from both sides. In this article, we examine Graham Dorrans’ role in the Rangers engine room.

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He’s one-half of an old-school partnership

It’s rare to see a 4-4-2 with two out-and-out wingers. The rise of five-man midfields and the onus on keeping possession has resulted in a reduction in the number of teams using the once-ubiquitous formation. There have been exceptions to the rule, most notably Leicester City during their stunning title-winning campaign, but in the norm teams are hesitant to leave themselves vulnerable in the centre. Even those who do use 4-4-2 tend to go with at least one natural centre-midfielder in a wide position. With a natural inclination to drift inside rather than get chalk on their boots, these players can add balance and stop potential overloads.

Rangers didn’t fear such issues against Motherwell. The Steelmen have been experimenting with a 3-5-2 during the pre-season and the Betfred Cup, so Pedro Caixinha would have known there was every chance they’d line-up that way, but he stuck to his guns: 4-4-2 with Josh Windass and Daniel Candeias on the flanks.

You could argue Windass is a central midfielder, seeing as he played there almost exclusively last season, but the player and manager have both said it’s not his favourite role. Besides, he’s an attacking player and, as his manager lamented after the game, culpable of switching off in defensive situations.

This meant a lot of the work rested on the central midfield pairing of Graham Dorrans and Ryan Jack. They not only had to be the fulcrum of their own team’s gameplan, they had to throw their opponents off theirs as well. It was a lot of work for two players to undertake and, while Motherwell will feel unlucky not to have taken a point from the game, the Rangers duo gave as good as they got.

He’s a willing grafter

Dorrans, and his midfield partner, both have stamina to spare. They willingly chased their counterparts around the park and, when possession was won back, moved forward quickly to support the attack.

Dorrans, though, was asked to go the extra mile, making those late runs into the penalty area, while Jack would often stay back and hold position, wary of any potential counter-attack. When Jack did venture forward he was quick to tell Dorrans to sit and hold.

Motherwell had periods of possession, especially in the first half when they still had the 3-5-2 in operation (they switched to a 4-4-2 at the break), and each player sometimes found it difficult to dispossess larger opponents in individual battles. But they were willing to fight in the first place, which was lacking from the character of Rangers’ squad last season in the eyes of the fans.

He’s got a range of passing (and moves it decisively)

Dorrans netted both goals. The first saw him ghost into space on the edge of the penalty area and then charge forward to finish when Kenny Miller cushioned a header into his path. The second was a penalty, which, you may not recall, Dorrans played a small but crucial role in helping to win.

Motherwell changed their system to stop Windass and Lee Wallace from doing as they pleased down the left-hand side, and it worked - for the most part.

The pair were only able to double up on full-back Richard Tait once in the second period. It came when Dorrans took possession midway through the Rangers’ half and quickly swept a 25-yard pass out to the wing. With Chris Cadden caught up the park and unable to offer support to his full-back, the Rangers attackers were able to win a corner, from which Louis Moult fouled Fabio Cardoso.

Dorrans confidently showed off his range of passing at various points throughout the match, and his attempts typically found their targets. In fact, he tended to be sloppier when it came to five and ten-yard balls.

He’s a goal threat (they hope)

Dorrans netted 12 goals in his final season with Livingston in 2007-08 and managed to better that total with West Brom two years later, scoring 18 times. It was expected his star would continue to rise as a goalscoring Scottish central midfielder, something the national team has needed in recent years. However, a combination of injury and the difficulty in stepping up to the Premier League put paid to that career path. Instead, he became more of a withdrawn midfielder, netting only eight times over his next five years at the Baggies.

It’ll be interesting to see if he can rediscover the scoring touch with a degree of consistency now that he’s dropped down a level or two to play in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Fostered by his opening weekend double, there’s now an expectancy for him to do so. And with a question mark still hanging over the forwards and whether any of them will be able to plunder 15 league goals across the campaign, Dorrans’ contribution from midfield could be vital if Rangers are to finish ahead of Aberdeen this term.