“HE HAS just shown something in the last week to 10 days [that suggests] he’s more settled. That he’s ready – and his teammates are starting to trust him," said Steven Gerrard yesterday.

On just his third league start of the season – Fashion Sakala grabbed his opportunity, the headlines and the match ball in Motherwell.

The summer arrival has had to be patient in the early months of the campaign. Yesterday was every inch an explosion onto the scene.

A hat-trick was the reward for an excellent performance. Sakala gave Rangers attacking variation, threatened in behind, was unpredictable with the ball at his feet and even after his third goal continued to go for more despite moving to the right.

His manager asked him to be a “constant menace” – an instruction he took very literally. 

Early encouragement

Starting from the left, the 24-year-old offered much of what his team has been missing. At their worst this season, Rangers have pondered on the ball and played predictably – Sakala was the complete reverse.

Here, as Stephen O’Donnell takes a heavy touch the Zambian wins a turnover and his opponent sees a yellow card. 

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Not only did this lead to an eventual dismissal, but demonstrated the protection he can offer his side high up the pitch. Too often the front three haven’t delivered in that regard - or been overly passive.

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Space wasn’t readily available in the opening 45. Regardless, whenever he popped up one-on-one, the forward looked dangerous, possessing as he does, the ability to go inside or around his marker.

As O’Donnell marshals him in the penalty area, Sakala steps over the ball to faint movement to the left, which opens the space for him to feed Alfredo Morelos to his right.

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The action buys room as O’Donnell has to commit. A pass to Morelos bears no success. However, if the Colombian takes a shot first time instead of a touch, the space was there to test Liam Kelly.

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An impressive leap to feed Joe Aribo should have led to the opener – but indicated the aerial prowess he possesses, previously highlighted by The Rangers Review.

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Given Morelos’ drop off in front of goal, Gerrard clearly wants two goalscorers in his front line.

Sakala’s differing profile from the two other No.9s at the club underlines his value. Not just possessing the ability to arrive in the box and score headers, but stretch games like a traditional winger.

The goals 

The next arrival into the box would turn the game and was a demonstration of the proficiency of the two finishers.

READ MORE: Rangers finally match determination with quality, now is the time to capitalise - Garry Carmody

As James Tavernier moves forward with the ball, Morelos and Sakala have doubled up on O’Donnell. This will create the eventual space the goal derives from.

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Sakala remains in the blindspot of Bevis Mugabi – O’Donnell cannot tuck in as Morelos is behind him.

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His leap to get above Mugabi, even though the defender is jumping on his heels, is impressive. 

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The second goal draws different themes. This time, by moving play vertically quickly Rangers can expose Motherwell’s three-man midfield.

Steven Davis’ intelligence makes this goal. He knows the opposition is out of shape, he allows the ball to run through him instead of slowing the game before playing in Glen Kamara.

Callum Slattery, the deepest midfielder, has to come out left to close down Aribo with his team chasing an equaliser - which leaves Davis the space centrally.

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Because the visitors' transition from defence to attack so quickly, Graham Alexander's men don’t have time to recover.

Kamara here occupies O’Hara – but the real difference maker is about to shoot up the line in the form of Calvin Bassey.

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Bassey’s decoy run offers Sakala the opportunity to run at O’Hara. Notice the midfielder’s body weight is committed and is planted on his right foot. Unable to match the following short burst, Rangers’ No.30 adds his second.

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Completion of the hat-trick would come from the right. Intelligent movement off of the shoulder of Nathan McGinley allowed him to attack Davis’ cross unencumbered – his athleticism sees him acrobatically connect.

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The Driving Winger

Goals aside, his brief spell on the right of the front three demonstrated another dimension his inclusion can bring to this team. For that brief period, Sakala showed flashes of a driving winger.

The Rangers Review wrote in detail last midweek about the need to inject pace in offensive wide areas and make the front three less predictable in their half-space movements.

READ MORE: Why driving wingers could be Rangers' next tactical variation that Steven Gerrard is 'working on'

"Inverted wingers could fleetingly be deployed as ‘driving wingers’ – to offer in-game tactical variation in that area of the pitch.

"Hugging the touchline, inserting pace into the attack from wide areas, stretching the defence and crucially doing something different – it makes the space teams often surrender against Rangers in expectation of crosses a lot more dangerous to hand over."

In the final 10 minutes - the forward did just that.

Such variation requires the opposition to consider different threats their set-up must combat. How many full-backs will be able to marshall Ryan Kent or Sakala without extra cover in the Premiership?

This will in turn impact the shape of the team to compensate – which opens up more gaps.

In briefly inverting a full-back and retaining width through one of the three wide forwards, the attacks can completely change their approach.

Here, Sakala receives where Tavernier traditionally would, with chalk on his boots. But he offers a different proposition to that which his captain has delivered up to that point.

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Normally a cross, or interplay, would be the passage towards chance creation from this area. But Sakala's individual attributes offer a varied approach.

His trickery and pace prove too much for McGinley – and even as Barry Maguire comes to double up there is no way to block the forward. The committal of an extra man means Rangers are man for man in the area.

A ball flashed across the goal is so nearly converted at the front post by Tavernier.

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A similar move occurs on more than one occasion. Notice here Tavernier is occupying the half-space, playing wide to Sakala who is providing width. He drives at the full-back again and sees a cross just turned behind.

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For the whole game to this point, McGinley has had to concern himself with crosses. Now the quickest player on the pitch is running directly at him one-on-one.

That latter threat, combined with his poacher-like finishes, is quite the portfolio. No one in the Rangers team offers a threat even similar to Sakala.

Kent, when direct, and to a lesser extent, Scott Wright are excellent when one-on-one. But the directness of Gerrard’s new signing makes him an entirely different proposition.

His ability to fulfil a wide role on the right in-game is an exciting addition made possible through his individual profile.  

Yesterday was all about the recovery of principles that have made this side so effective. Hard work off the ball, quick vertical play and moments of quality from key players.

Sakala offers Gerrard a new and exciting method with which to further evolve this side.