Rangers: Let’s talk about Ryan Kent’s current form

MOTHERWELL, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 17: Ryan Kent of Rangers is challenged by Robbie Crawford of Motherwell during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Motherwell and Rangers at Fir Park on January 17, 2021 in Motherwell, Scotland. Sporting stadiums around Scotland remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
MOTHERWELL, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 17: Ryan Kent of Rangers is challenged by Robbie Crawford of Motherwell during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Motherwell and Rangers at Fir Park on January 17, 2021 in Motherwell, Scotland. Sporting stadiums around Scotland remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images) /
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Ryan Kent has seen a dip in form in recent weeks, what is the cause and how concerned should Rangers be?

Know anyone who all-too-often coins old adages as universal truths in just about every sentence? I’m as guilty of it as anyone. There’s a certain comfort to them, you’ve heard them so many times that, ah, you have a point there. It’s all a bit deceptive though, you aren’t really agreeing with the logic, just it’s been replayed ad infinitum and become accepted as common sense. Believe me, early to bed, early to rise, hasn’t made me healthy, wealthy or wise. Just ask my wife.

The classic for football is that it’s a funny old game. When we used to be able to actually attend matches, in person, you’d hear that one coined not too infrequently and indeed there’s truth contained in it. Football people are pretty superstitious and luck and form are just one element where the game seems to deter from the beaten track, in a funny old fashion.

Kent hasn’t scored a goal for Rangers since one loan strike in November, and, before that, a single offering in September.

So too with Rangers star Ryan Kent. We’ve discussed before, early on in the season, how he stood head and shoulders above the rest of the league. With bids flying in from Premier League suitors, Kent seemed destined for bigger things after he had finished his stint under Steven Gerrard. Indeed, he was prolific – within 9 games in all competitions he had scored 5 times, assisted once and got man of the match twice. Unquestionably he was our best player and thus, arguably, the Premiership’s best player too.

Sadly there’s another side of the coin. Kent’s form would start a slow decline from December, though he would still grab three assists in December and January, they came in just two games. Scratch beneath the surface and deeper evidence of his dip in form materialises. For example, Kent hasn’t scored a goal for Rangers since one loan strike in November, and, before that, a single offering in September. Despite this, he’s taken more shots on than any player in light blue other than James Tavernier.

Kent has seen decline in average number of key passes per game, down from 3 in November to just above 1 in December and January. Other stats, generally, remain roughly the same but just eyeballing Ryan and you know the lad is in a bit of a rut. Not only have Rangers fans noticed, but ex-Gers player Andy Halliday recently commented stating much the same, as quoted by the Daily Record;

"“I think that must be hard for a manager though, when you know somebody is that talented and he’s not really playing that well, but you think he’s that good that you just need to keep playing him and hope he gets better and back to form.I think the boys that are behind him as well; Jordan Jones is out of favour, Greg Stewart is out of favour, Glenn Middleton is out of favour.So it’s not really as if he has somebody absolutely battering the door down who is flying or playing well to take over from him.”"

Here’s the rub: Kent being out of form isn’t terribly surprising. It happens all thea time in football and just watching the Motherwell game would indicate one or two others in the squad are in the same boat. The issue here is that Kent is indispensable, irreplaceable and, ultimately, without any natural stand-in at Ibrox.

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This is, to say the least, not a particularly great situation. Our squad is definitely much deeper than at any time in the last ten years, but in all the haste to bring in strikers it seems like we’ve forgotten to reinforce the middle of the park. This is particularly alarming when, yes, Kent was, is and will be hot property. His small dip in form likely won’t detract other clubs from going in on him, he’s proven he can perform at a high level and he’s still yet to hit his peak at only 24.

For now, Gerrard can run the legs off him, playing him in every single game, as his form continues to dip – but what about if an offer comes in that the club simply can’t refuse? Halliday is correct that none of the potential heirs really fit the bill and that much is obvious by how little Stevie G has trusted them this season. Obviously reinforcements are required, come what may, and hopefully Kent’s recent form will provide a wakeup call in that direction.

Nonetheless, I don’t expect Ryan to continue to underperform. There’s too much talent there and hunger to succeed, if for no other reason than to impress his would-be suitors. With the title looming, it’s more important than ever to focus on the finish line and not slipping up at this key stage. All things said, I’ll borrow one more adage as a reminder; form is temporary, class is permanent.