The former Hibs striker has joined the Ibrox side on loan from Nottingham Forest until the end of the season, with an option to purchase the player outright after that. Craig Fowler gives his take on the deal
This is undoubtedly a good signing. Rangers have been crying out for quality depth in reserve up front, someone who can rise from the bench and change the course of a match in an instant. Eduardo Herrera may be a Mexican international, but in Scottish football he’s yet to looked quick enough, both in terms of mobility and speed of thought, to be another other than an expensive flop. Cummings, meanwhile, knows the game up here like the back of his hand and has already excelled in its environment before.
Whether it becomes a great signing depends on a couple of factors. Firstly, he’ll have to prove to everyone that he can be a regular goalscorer in the top tier in the same manner he was in the Scottish Championship. Unless you count the 2014 play-off final, he’s still to score in the Premiership, with his only experience being a run of games towards the end of Hibs’ ill-fated 2013/14 relegation season. In the English Championship with Forest, he netted only once in the league and three times in the EFL Cup.
Cummings is a little different to Alfredo Morelos, though they are both goalscorers. The former doesn’t contribute an awful lot to the attack outside of the penalty area. So if he’s not scoring regularly he likely won’t keep his place in the team. Fortunately for Rangers, his record in front of goal against Premiership sides while still a lower league player with Hibs would indicate that he’ll have little problem finding the net during his loan spell. And, regrettable as it is to say, the English second tier is probably a higher standard than the Scottish top flight. What’s more, unlike at Forest, he’ll be playing on one of the stronger teams in the division and, as a result, there should be plenty of opportunities coming his way.
The other factor is his place in the team. After signing for Rangers, Cummings predicted that he and Morelos would be able to form a strong partnership. He’s right to an extent. While there’s a lack of height in that duo, Morelos is fairly skilled at holding the ball up and will happily drop deep to link with the midfield. When he’s doing that, Cummings will stay up top, looking to make a run in behind and pushing the opposing defence deep towards their own goal.
However, there still remains a doubt as to whether the current Rangers squad possesses the players to make a 4-4-2 system work. Earlier in the season, Graham Dorrans and Ryan Jack occupied the roles, but would often have to sit quite deep in order to try and protect the defence, with mixed results. In such a set-up it would be Jamie Murphy or Josh Windass on the left and Daniel Candeias on the right: two attacking wingers. At least with the Rangers team earlier in the season they had Kenny Miller haring around the park, putting pressure on opponents in possession. Swap Miller for Cummings with the similar personnel around them, and there’s a danger that the midfield pair in the centre would be overrun.
There is the option of the diamond in midfield, but that would leave Candeias without a space in the starting XI. Statistically speaking, the Portuguese winger has been the most creative player in the league this season, and surely someone you’d want in the side if you’ve just signed a ruthless goalscorer. A 3-5-2 would present the same problem, as James Tavernier is player they wouldn’t want to drop. There’s a lot to consider for manager Graeme Murty.
As for the deal itself, while the seemingly rearranged loan for Murphy may have raised some eyebrows, the way this signing is structured makes perfect sense. Cummings represents more of a gamble. If he doesn’t fit into the team, they have the option of saying goodbye in the summer. If he does pick up where he left off at Easter Road, they can sign him for an agreeable fee.
In the meantime, he gives Murty something he hasn’t had at Rangers to this point. When the Light Blues are struggling, down by a goal in the final 20 minutes of play, he can look across his bench and find a forward capable of making an instant impact. Whether it’s Morelos, Cummings or Murphy, it doesn’t matter. They now have some real strength in depth. Even if that’s all this signing becomes, the Cummings deal will still be worth it.