CEDRIC ITTEN has returned to Glasgow after Rangers recalled him from a loan spell with Greuther Furth.

The forward’s half-season in Germany has proved frustrating, with just two Bundesliga goals scored and the team he departs sitting bottom of the division. A goal-scoring return to the Switzerland international fold also coincided with his time on the continent.

Itten’s recall will provide necessary depth behind Alfredo Morelos following Jermain Defoe's departure and allow the 25-year-old to play in a system that may prove better tailored to his attributes than Steven Gerrard’s 4-3-2-1. The appointment of Giovanni van Bronckhorst and subsequent introduction of a more traditional 4-3-3 has ‘significantly altered’ some of the individual roles within the team.

Will Itten be better suited to van Bronckhorst’s football than Gerrard’s – or could his involvement resemble the irregular featuring of last campaign?

Not suited to deep-lying demands 

As detailed previously by The Rangers Review, Itten was used specifically and sporadically during the 2020/21 campaign – only playing four 90 minutes as a centre-forward in the Scottish Premiership.

Rangers Review: Cedric Itten's minutes by position in the Scottish Premiership (20/21),Cedric Itten's minutes by position in the Scottish Premiership (20/21),

He may well have been signed for a tactical evolution that never truly materialised under the previous regime. The need to include two finishers in the front three against stubborn defences was realised when Kemar Roofe arrived, before the move to an even more intentional 4-3-1-2 was trialled successfully during a 4-1 win over Celtic.

READ MORE: Cedric Itten Deep Dive: Swiss striker faces Rangers crossroads - Craig Vickers

Rangers Review: Rangers' second-half pass map from a 4-1 win over Celtic.Rangers' second-half pass map from a 4-1 win over Celtic.

Both Roofe and Itten played the right-sided forward role at separate points last season, however, the set-up in this particular Old Firm match featured two No.9s stationed centrally. Having excelled in a strike partnership at previous club St Gallen, and given Fashion Sakala’s endeavours in a front pairing – there is substantial evidence that Gerrard and Michael Beale planned to move towards a front two this season. In a parallel universe, Itten may well have found more joy in this scenario.

As it played out, Morelos continued in the deep-lying forward role this season to mixed success and Itten departed on loan with his differing profile to the Colombian always making a long-term future in that position unlikely. He doesn’t possess the same passing range or ability to roll defenders, both of which Morelos utilised successfully in deep areas over the past three seasons.

Itten's pass map from his only competitive start for Rangers this season, a 2-1 defeat away at Malmo in August, shows the depth of his involvement from the No.9 spot. Although tidy in possession, he wasn't effective in dangerous areas and the location of his involvements didn't allow his penalty box movement or interplay around the penalty box to be utilised - demonstrated by his heat map and pass map from the fixture.

Rangers Review: Cedric Itten's pass map in a 2-1 defeat against MalmoCedric Itten's pass map in a 2-1 defeat against Malmo

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His xG per 90 last season stood at 0.31 in the Premiership, bettered only by Morelos and Roofe of his teammates, however only four goals were scored during that time and less than 10 full 90 minutes played.

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How the centre-forward role has changed 

READ MORE: Alfredo Morelos' dramatic Rangers rise revealed as 'playing towards box' philosophy pays

Itten returns to Scotland with the attacking blueprint very different to the one he left behind, Morelos’ goal return and performance levels suggests change has been for the better.

He looks an entirely different player from the stagnating forward that trudged around ineffectively against Hibs at Hampden. His role has been simplified to maximise penalty box activity and the dependence on his involvement in build-up has decreased.

Speaking to De Telegraaf recently, van Bronckhorst said: “I watched videos of him [Morelos] playing before we came to the club. He was dropping too deep and coming out of the striker’s role a bit too often. We just want him to operate in the box.”

That last sentence explains how the responsibility of Rangers' centre-forward has changed in the past two months - their main objective is to operate in the box, not outside of it.

Since van Bronckhorst arrived, Morelos' xG per 90 has risen from 0.51 to 0.74, he is averaging around four more touches in the opposition box and his xG assisted has risen from 0.09 to 0.40 in the Scottish Premiership. Most importantly, he has scored six goals in eight starts in all competitions.

Rangers Review: Alfredo Morelos under Steven Gerrard in the Scottish Premiership (21/22).Alfredo Morelos under Steven Gerrard in the Scottish Premiership (21/22).

Rangers Review: Alfredo Morelos under Giovanni van Bronckhorst in the Scottish Premiership (21/22).Alfredo Morelos under Giovanni van Bronckhorst in the Scottish Premiership (21/22).

The two players are different stylistically, but given Itten will only play as a central striker in the newly-introduced system comparison with Morelos’ upturn is useful and from the returning forward's point of view undoubtedly hopeful.

The skillset to succeed?

It’s worth remembering why Itten was brought to Ibrox in the first instance – to gain a better understanding of how he will contribute for the remainder of the campaign.

On the surface, it feels immediately apparent that playing as a centre-forward under van Bronckhorst will get more out of Itten than Gerrard’s deep-lying demands. He is at his best in the box, skilled at finding space between centre-backs, winning aerial duels and reversing through balls around the corner to subsequently attack crosses.

Take this goal against Motherwell as an example – Itten is able to move off the back of his marker and head home unchallenged (demonstrated by the goal’s freeze frame).

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A recent strike for Switzerland also saw Itten use a physical battle to his advantage.

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Playing with traditional wingers flanking him and midfield runners joining him in the box should allow the Swiss forward to better showcase these talents.

The increased width in attack, provided by wingers stretching the pitch instead of full-backs, will also grant Itten more space to attack in the penalty box. Van Bronckhorst has regularly spoken about the need to stretch the opposition backline to 'find and create spaces', Joe Aribo's goals against Hearts and Livingston alongside Morelos' strike at Tynecastle all justify the success of this tactic.

Rangers Review: Rangers' front three are playing with increased width - stretching opposition defences. Rangers' front three are playing with increased width - stretching opposition defences.


Speaking upon confirmation of Itten’s return, Ross Wilson said: “Gio was aware of Cedric’s profile as a player prior to the confirmation of his appointment as Rangers manager.”

The big question is will a better fit translate to more goals? Now more than ever that is the measure of a strikers value in this team.

Itten appears better suited to the new tactical blueprint developing at Ibrox but as in his first spell will need to grasp any opportunity he is granted to secure a longer-term future at the club.