Who is new Rangers striker Cedric Itten - scouting report on the Swiss international who is deadly in front of goal
The 23-year-old was on of two strikers signed on Tuesday – what can Rangers fans expect
Tuesday was an exciting day for Rangers fans, not only did the club announce the expected signing of Kemar Roofe after a leaked photo emerged but out of left-field came the arrival of Cedric Itten from St Gallen.
Adding two strikers increases the firepower at Ibrox, even if Alfredo Morelos does depart before October, as they aim to close the gap on Celtic and stop their rival’s pursuit of ten in a row.
Plenty has been written and said about Roofe, who is familiar to a number of fans due to his exploits with Leeds United, but what about Itten?
St Gallen largely fielded a 4-3-1-2 system with width provided by the full-backs. Itten has played as part of the strike partnership and as the attacking midfielder supporting, which is useful for Steven Gerrard considering the way Rangers play with a central target, supported by two No.10s.
The player, however, is more suited to a striker role.
The nature of St Gallen’s system this past season meant the forward players were required to work in wide areas which helped create space centrally.
Itten was adept at this, keen to drift out wide and look to gain possession before moving infield when it suited. This particular movement helped bag him a couple of goals as he snuck in on the blind side of a defender, usually the left-back, especially when play was on the opposite side.
In and around the box the 23-year-old is excellent at making small or quick movements to get in front of defenders or find himself in space to net cut-backs into open goals as seen in a win over Luzern, scoring between two defenders.
As previously mentioned, Itten has largely operated as part of a front two with support from a third central attacker. It suits his willingness to move away from the goal, whether that is laterally to the wings or vertically.
He has no issue coming towards the ball rather than simply being static between the sides of the box and waiting for possession to come to him.
Looking at the way Rangers have been evolving, Morelos has become just as important as a facilitator as a goal scorer but it has needed players breaking beyond him, as witnessed at the weekend when he assisted Ryan Kent for the only goal in the win over Aberdeen.
Itten suffers from something the Colombian had a problem with when he first arrived. His touch can be very ‘bouncy', especially when a ball is fired into his feet. It can lead to the player chasing his touch or a loss of possession.
That being said, he can be very good with instinctive lay-offs or flicks into the path of a strike partner.
The big positive is his willingness to offer himself as a target, whether that is coming towards a ball, even at chest height, or running a channel and getting the team up the pitch.
It is a key attribute in Scotland and why it has been separated from link play. There are positives and areas to be worked on for the player.
It has to be said that Itten is strong – and no slouch when it comes to a foot race – but he has to be set, ready to embrace impact or he can be easily bullied.
Something he is very good at is using his arm and doing so early. As he sees play develop he will look to feel the defender’s presence before planting an arm against his opponent to gain leverage and provide a solid ground. When he does that he can be very difficult to bundle out the way as he holds on to the ball well.
The issues comes when facing powerful, quick, aggressive and proactive defenders. Someone like Christopher Jullien who likes to step forward and pinch the ball off a forward's foot using his athleticism for example.
It was noticeable in a recent 5-0 defeat with Basel that the centre-back pairing played a really aggressive game against Itten. Too often he was caught on his toes as the defenders never allowed themselves to be pinned or used leverage for the striker to set himself. When that happens he is easily brushed aside.
In the air
An attribute we can split into two parts.
Firstly, the good part. No player scored more than Itten’s five headed goals in Switzerland last season in the league. A lot of which is down to qualities we have already discussed, his movement and use of his arm to create space from a defender.
St Gallen’s second and third most prolific crossers of the ball were the full-backs. He should be able to provide headed goals to this Rangers team with the current full-backs.
When it comes to open play, competing for long balls, winning aerial battles against centre-backs, he is nowhere near as impressive, not helped by a reluctance to jump and attack an aerial ball.
Itten was in the top five for aerial duels last season but recorded a lowly 36.84 per cent success rate. It is a better than Jermain Defoe, Alfredo Morelos and Florian Kamberi but not to the extent Gerrard would be advocating a tweak to his game plan and asking the team to go long.
In front of goal
The question Rangers fans want to know, will he score goals? Without being definitive, there is a very good chance he could be prolific.
Itten should thrive on early crosses from wide, especially from Borna Barisic, allowing him to attack the ball from the left.
Looking into the goals he scored last season, two things stand out. Where he scores from and how he scores.
All league goals were scored from inside the box, with the exception of one.
Of the 19 he scored in the Swiss Super League, 16 were first-time finishes, owing to his instincts when running across a defender (v FC Zurich), a confident volley (v Lugano) or towering header (v FC Sion).
The three he has scored fro Switzerland were also inside the box and one-touch finishes.
The striker scored his 19 goals from 92 shots which worked out at a goal every 4.8 shots. In terms of comparison, Morelos scored one in every nine shots last season in the league, for Defoe it was one in every three and in Roofe’s final full season at Leeds United it was a goal every 5.9 shots.
Another positive is an ability to stay onside. He averaged just 0.58 offsides per 90 minutes during the Swiss Premier League campaign – Defoe (1.19) and Morelos (1.15). It is an impressive number for someone who makes quick movements in and around the box to get space and for someone who is willing to play on the shoulder of the last defender.
Rangers have brought in a versatile forward who has the qualities to suit the system Gerrard plays.
As the Ibrox manager has mentioned Itten comes with potential with areas to his came which need refined but there is more than enough talent already there to suggest he will add to the team straight away.
His movement and instincts will make him a difficult striker to defend against in the box, while also stretching teams to open up space.
A strong work ethic and desire to link with striker partners gives Gerrard the option to play two forwards when required.