The core question surrounding Rangers coming out of the latest transfer window was, ‘Will this be enough’?

There was, is, a real acknowledgement that things are heading in the right direction under Philippe Clement. However, the situation inherited by the Belgian was always going to take longer than one transfer window to solve. Meanwhile internally, the reality that recruitment simply had to improve following last summer ensured the focus in January within Ibrox was not only on the short but long-term.

There was more than one issue to fix. Nils Koppen’s job remit was not to add some finishing touches to a squad, it was to reshape the current complement and change the course of travel moving forward.

A blend of injuries, the wrong arrivals and circumstance leaves the attack as the lightest area in the squad despite last summer’s financial outlay. Did, do, this Rangers squad have the necessary goals and a sufficient number of difference-makers to win a league title? Are there the tools at the manager’s disposal to expose this campaign’s potential?

What is undeniable is that Clement will have to squeeze every last drop out of Rangers' potential to achieve what is possible this season. To be fair, getting the most of resources has been the defining trait of his spell at Ibrox so far.

This last week was a good one for Rangers with those noises in mind. In a 2-0 win over Ayr United yesterday Oscar Cortes was handed man of the match during an impressive full debut while Fabio Silva scored his second goal in as many starts, having also lifted things from the bench against Aberdeen on Tuesday.

It was also a good week for another player in that forward compliment. Is it time to say that Todd Cantwell is starting to look like his old self again?

This was a seven-day period where the midfielder scored twice, one being a winner, while also changing the tone of yesterday’s win over Ayr in the Scottish Cup. In a performance that needed that second goal, Cantwell added some personality to a game lacking it. 

At risk of focusing too much on the little things the 25-year-old looks a yard sharper and a tad more confident than a few weeks ago. And for an individual game that’s built on taking risks and making them count, that’s important. While you never sense that he’s lost his confidence this season, the reaction to Cantwell's performance in the 2-1 Old Firm defeat before New Year was indicative of a support who needed some more convincing and plenty of end product. Four goals in five league starts since, a better understanding of the role Clement wants him to play and a couple of big moments in response is exactly what was required.

As shown in his 2024 league shot map Cantwell is overperforming his expected goals considerably but has delivered a high-quality of efforts and four goals in return.

A club like Rangers requires players with the ability to take ownership of games, just like Cantwell. In recent years this side has lacked individuals with Cantwell's confidence and exuberance. At the moment, in a season that was not going to plan last autumn, the former Norwich man is on an upward trajectory. 

Criticism is going to follow creators and the appetite and need for individuals to get Rangers over the lines in Old Firm matches is a strong undercurrent of any conversation surrounding the forward line. The story of last year’s fixture, as epitomised at Parkhead in December, was not one of a total gulf in class, it was the fine margins of finishers on one team and the sheer lack of them on the other.

Cantwell now feels more at home in the No.10 role as his performances this year show. 

“It has been tough. A lot of people forget I had been out for two and a half to nearly three months,” Cantwell said speaking last weekend.

“There is always a lot of noise about me and I know I am the type of player who invites that. But as long as they are all seeing the good stuff as well then that is alright.

“I’m playing centrally as a No.10 now and I am giving out the numbers that I think I can do. The manager knows what my best position is. His words to me were ‘When I first came in we had a few injuries we had a few complications in a sense’.

"Listen, I am playing in a position I like and I think I am showing it is my best position. I am thankful to the manager for giving me that game time. I am playing as a different No.10 than I was before. It is a different style, a different way of playing the way we are playing. You can see that I am not being asked to play the way I was last season.

“I see a lot of comments. Todd’s not getting involved. Todd’s not doing this. But I am being asked to play differently and it is working. The numbers are coming through, I am enjoying myself so let’s just enjoy it.”

Clement, discussing his No.13 in midweek said: “I see him growing, he is doing much more of what is necessary for the team and he starts to understand better the story."

Playing under Michael Beale, the pace of Rangers' play was slower and Cantwell’s position on the pitch totally free. Now there’s a greater restriction on his movement, a need to not always travel towards the ball but run in behind and support the striker as much as the midfield.

In 2024 we’ve seen a number of contributions that support Clement’s assumption; Cantwell is understanding his manager's 'story' more while Rangers are also seeing the qualities that shone upon his arrival.

The midfielder's goal on January 2nd against Kilmarnock saw the midfielder recognise Cyriel Dessers dropping off as a ball travelled behind the defence and capitalise on space at the front post after a curved run from the back. 

Against Hibs in the first game back after the winter break, Cantwell took his frustration out in the right way having been barged into by the touchline. Notice in the lead-up to this goal how he finds space between the lines to turn quickly, one of his finest qualities, before hitting a shot from range to score.

Last weekend’s strike against Livingston was a perfect example of Cantwell's No.10 role against a low block. Again receiving the ball and quickly turning in one motion before continuing his movement into the box and finishing. 

Cantwell's midweek winner against Aberdeen was not only a big moment but another example of learning the specifics under Clement. Rather than move towards the ball in the build-up, he again travelled beyond the striker and converted a rebound.

While the No.13 didn’t provide the assist for Silva yesterday, the second goal would not have happened without him. Moving out of a cover shadow to again receive and turn, Cantwell retained possession under pressure, provided some invention and created a clever opening.

At the moment we are seeing some of Cantwell's best traits (basing touches off of the defender's movement, problem-solving in tight areas and creating) moulded to Clement's tactical ideas (more direct attacks, more forward-thinking movement and touches in higher areas).

If Rangers are to win this league they'll need Cantwell to lead them in performances and at the moment, it feels as though he's starting to kick into gear.

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