Rangers have today confirmed the arrival of Scott Arfield from Burnley on a four-year deal - the first signing of the Steven Gerrard era.
The Ibrox club aren’t short of midfielders, but it’s Arfield’s versatility in the middle of the park that makes him such an attractive acquisition.
The left-footed Arfield made his name at Falkirk, playing predominantly as a No.8 but his work ethic, composure on the ball and willingness to play wherever has seen him deployed on the left of a midfield four - where Burnley boss Sean Dyche often utilised him - as an attacking midfielder, and in a sitting role.
The 29-year-old’s fitness levels enable him to get up and down the field. He’s happy digging in and doing the defensive work, but he’s equally adept at starting counter-attacks with ease.
His passing success rate rarely drops below 60 per cent.
Give Arfield the ball in a tight space, and he’ll find something to do with it. The former Scotland Under-21 international easily makes space for himself and provides options for his team-mates.
He’s also racked up more than 100 games in the English top flight and while he isn’t the most prolific, he has an eye for the odd spectacular goal and has hit strikes against Chelsea, Liverpool, Burnley’s rivals Blackburn as well as winners against Everton and Watford.
The fact that he’s been linked with Newcastle United, West Ham, Hull and Crystal Palace shows how highly rated Arfield is south of the Border. He’s been likened to James Milner of Liverpool; reliable, dependable and a hard worker.
He’s tasted promotion and relegation, as well as played - and scored - in cup finals. He’s also played a part in helping Burnley qualify for Europe for the first time in over 50 years.
Along with Dyche, former managers John Hughes and Lee Clark have also praised Arfield’s ability.
John Hughes, who brought Arfield through at Falkirk, reckons the midfielder has a “bit of Graham Dorrans on the ball, a bit of Jamie Murphy in that he can run with it and a bit of Scott Brown in terms of getting up and down [the pitch].”
Hughes also feels that Gordon Strachan should have capped Arfield for Scotland, and highlighted the former Huddersfield man’s positive attitude to training and matches, picking out his “hunger and drive” as particular plus points.
In signing Arfield, Rangers have acquired a hard-working, talented, technically gifted player with plenty of experience of the Scottish game and down south.
He would be happy sitting alongside Greg Docherty in front of the defence, playing on the left of a midfield four, or playing anywhere across an attacking midfield trio. He’s an upgrade on Jason Holt and he has bags of experience and advice to pass onto Docherty and Ross McCrorie. Working under Gerrard and his No.2 Gary McAllister will only improve Arfield’s own game, given the duo’s respective careers at both club and international level.
Arfield departs Burnley after five seasons at Turf Moor, with the Clarets fans more than a little sad to see the midfielder leave.
One fan on a club forum wrote: “Replacing him as a footballer will cost us a small fortune and I doubt anyone good enough to replace him off the pitch will be half as good a character off it.”
Another supporter added: “Arfield was a superb technical player, he could always look after the ball in tight spaces and that’s one of the reasons why he played so well for us in a wide position.”
A quote from a 2014 interview sums the player up. He said: “Your workrate isn’t something you should get too much credit for. It’s the bare minimum people are entitled to expect of you – working hard for the team, working hard for the fans, working hard for yourself.
“Some days it doesn’t go for you, but you have to keep working and eventually your ability and your own belief in it will shine through.”