Six things Rangers fans should know about Ovie Ejaria
He’s played eight times for Liverpool
While his two Premier League appearances have been late cameos in one-sided victories against weaker opponents, he does boast five starts from six cup games, where he lined up alongside the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino along with the usual scattering of younger players often utilised by big clubs in earlier rounds.
Liverpool will be keeping a very close eye on him
As is standard practice at the elite level these days, Liverpool have an entire structure in place to ensure they know just about every movement Ejaria makes on a football field during his time away from the club. They even have Julian Ward, their Loan Pathways & Football Partnerships Manager, to oversee the development of various promising youngsters as they are farmed out to various clubs.
Ward explained the set-up during Ejaria’s loan move at Sunderland last season, telling the Mirror: “The different departments across our club are connected with the loan club where we place a player - whether that be medical to medical, sports science to sports science, analysis to analysis or coaching to coaching - just so that we can make sure that when a player leaves us, the club they’re going to are fully furnished with where they’re at in terms of technical and physical development.
“We look at areas of their game that we think ‘OK, this is where the player is at the start of the loan, by the end of the loan we’d hope to see some progress and improvements in these three or four specific coaching areas’.
“Then, the clips from all the players’ games are fed back to us within 24-48 hours and I liaise with our scouting department and coaches to make sure that we get regular live viewings of games, but also we get out to the training ground to see them working in their environment Monday to Friday.”
He’s got terrific raw attributes
If he fulfils his potential then Ejaria will be an exciting player to watch. He’s a terrific athlete with great size and speed, but he’s also got lightning quick feet. This enables him to squirm out of pressurised areas and gallop away with the ball to put his team on the front foot. When he gets up a real head of steam he can outrun just about any defender and is a real threat breaking in behind the back-line. He’s also capable of throwing his weight into opponents, either to rebuff their attentions or to steal back possession himself.
He’s still got a lot to learn
While there are moments where Ejaria looks like a world beater in the making, too often he fails to do the basics right and has supporters crying out in frustration.
One minute he can dominate opponent both with his body and his feet; knocking them flat with a shoulder charge or dancing around them with the football. The next minute he can lose a 50-50 to the same opponent and find himself trying to dribble his way out of pressure, only to constantly turn into blind alleys.
He’s got the tools but he needs to know how to use those skills effectively. He must also learn how to assert himself on proceedings and not slink into the background of matches.
Sunderland fans didn’t rate him
There were very few calls for the Black Cats to pursue another loan deal for next season when Ejaria’s spell expired. Overall his performances meant he was viewed as one of many disappointing signings made by former boss Chris Coleman last season.
While most would admit the player had talent, the majority felt he didn’t bring enough to a team fighting against relegation. It perhaps says a lot about his time in the North East that his best game for the club came in a meaningless end-of-season 3-0 victory over a Wolves side already on their holidays.
He’s better playing in attacking areas
There’s no doubt Ejaria will be expected to battle when he puts on a blue shirt next season. Rangers fans have had enough of watching players cower in high pressure situations, particularly against Celtic, and there will be nowhere for the player to hide in the red-hot intensity around Glasgow’s big two.
That being said, it will be a very different scenario he’s walking into at Ibrox. Though the club have endured their struggles, they’re still one of the better teams in the league and will enjoy the lion’s share of attacking possession against the majority of opponents. This should suit the midfielder.
As former team-mate Lee Camp put it: “It was difficult for Ovie at Sunderland. With the situation of fighting against relegation, we probably didn’t see the best of him. But there were times when he played high up the pitch centrally, in the No10 role, and you could see his quality.
“He created chances, he got a goal and in a successful, attacking team, he would thrive. Rangers would offer that platform. Ovie needs to be on the ball creating things, and he would get the chance at Ibrox.”