MANY are fixated on replacing those who are rumoured to be leaving Rangers in the summer, which is a meaningful discourse and no doubt a challenge that must be met head-on.

What is seldom discussed is bringing in profiles absent within the current rotation, as many of these missing links continue to hamstring performances and results.

Right wing will take most of the attention, as it seems to have done for years. It's been a decade-plus since Rangers owned a formidable, dynamic, and consistent option in that area of the pitch. Less often talked about, the absence of a creative box-to-box presence has hit just as hard.

Aaron Ramsey was brought in in January to address this issue. He's impressed when he's managed to make the starting lineup. Still, the inconsistency of his availability coupled with his age makes him a no-go. You could claim that both Scott Arfield and Joe Aribo offer an incarnation of the role. However, neither fulfil it to the letter and are preferred in different functions, not to mention that questions persist over the latter's future.

Frugality and ability are synthesised in the proposition of 23-year-old Zambian central-midfielder Kings Kangwa. His Arsenal Tula side is destined for relegation to the FNL (Russian 2nd Tier) as the months tick down on his 2023 expiring contract.

So let's look at why this is the optimal deal to fill out Rangers' central midfield roster.


Kangwa is a diminutively sized yet incredibly aggressive central midfielder. He is very right-footed, I wouldn't go as far as saying his left is just for standing, but the less he uses it the better. In saying that, the ability in his right food amply makes up for being lacking in his left.

Despite his short frame, he is stronger than he looks. Kangwa, for the most part, plays as an 8 but can sit further back as a defensive midfielder. If needed, he can even play as a 10.

If pushed to answer, he looks more comfortable in the opposition half than his own, but he’s comfortable just about anywhere.

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Below is his data profile, filtered against fellow central and defensive midfielders with over 1000 minutes in the current RPL season. Before we dive into it, it's important to contextualise how bad Arsenal Tula are. The closest Scottish comparison is Dundee.

READ MORE: Rangers transfer solutions: The Slovenian ready-made replacement for Steven Davis

They sit three points adrift in the actual table and fifth in the xPoints table; they average the third least amount of possession, and importantly for Kangwa, he has minimal firepower around him. This is so pronounced that he has as many goals as their starting striker - four.

Another important note is that the RPL, despite not being one of Europe’s elite leagues, is comfortably stronger than the Scottish Premiership and is spoiled for riches in the centre of midfield. Kangwa has excellent competition.

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He finds himself in the top half for all the relevant attacking metrics. This suggests that he is both a high-quantity and high-quality offensive option.

He’s a high-volume dribbler, though his success rates aren’t as impressive as his raw quantity. His foul differential p90 is negative, which is undoubtedly caused by his quick fuse, which leads to him picking up quite a few unnecessary bookings and cautions.

Outside of his his general passing accuracies, the effectiveness and volume of high-jeopardy passes he produces are fantastic. This manifests itself in his placement in the 88th percentile for expected assists and 92nd for actual assists. Much like his dribbling, Kangwa’s defensive stats suggest someone who operates on a high-volume basis. As a result, the quality drops. So let’s look to the very bottom at his rating scores. They average out at just below 60, a very healthy and exciting set of numbers.

Ball Progression and Counter-Attack Catalyst

When sitting deep, one of Kangwa’s greatest attributes is his ability to progress the ball, only heightened should the situation be a counter-attack. His ability to both progress the ball by passing or running is evident when you watch him play and visualised in the graphic below. As both his strong foot and natural position on the field would dictate, most of his best work is done on the left side; it’s not difficult to imagine him playing in Ryan Kent, an overlapping Calvin Bassey or dragging defenders out to afford the pair greater space.

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His quick-thinking and decent passing range become more valuable in counter-attacking situations. He is often either the first or second option when possession is regained, whether from a quick goal kick, goalkeeper throw, or played to him directly by one of the defenders. Below we can see his counter-attacking actions from this season. He plays several accurate passes in this capacity and is also not afraid of taking the ball with him, as seen by the number of successful accelerations made around the halfway line.

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Often he is the catalyst himself for counter-attacks, as his active role in pressing and chasing loose balls is influential. We can see an example of this below: he stands up the Zenit midfielder, wins the ball with force whilst being careful not to foul, and quickly plays it wide to the winger who has come deep to help defend.

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We can look to the graphic below to return to a broader focus on his progression game, focusing on his passing. Here we can see the four most common areas Kangwa finds himself on the pitch and his respective passing radars from said areas.

When playing deepest, the abundance of exuding bars suggests he is a fan of playing long-searching balls, which he does with differing accuracies. He’s most accurate when passing laterally or diagonally yet struggles for consistency when passing straight ahead. When we move on to the row of three radars in front, we can see a mix of results. He tends to play it to his opposite number on the right or the right-winger, taking the form of switches of play.

He occasionally plays it back but is more inclined to progress the ball towards the goal. His accuracy differs, but for the most part, when playing left-ward, he maintains a consistently decent passing accuracy.

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Accessing The Final Third

As mentioned previously, Kangwa is a proponent of a long diagonal switch to access teammates who aren't ball-side and, in turn, force defensive rotations. An example of this can be seen below, though here, the purpose is not merely to make space but rather to play in a teammate. Kangwa somehow manages to circumvent the three lines of Lokomotiv players and finds his right-winger in the box, who is presented with a golden opportunity.

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A similar example is seen below, although the end product is not as flashy. Here Kangwa drifts into the right half-space, picking the ball up from his centre-back. He continues to drift inwards and force the defenders to come tighter; he then pulls the trigger and plays through his left-winger, who is given ample space on the left wing to do as he pleases.

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Kangwa’s ability to dribble with the ball and beat his man also serves a purpose when getting into the final third. Firstly, it forces defenders to stay alert as they cannot rest on their laurels and assume that he will pass, as the duality of skill is present. Below we can see the origins of all of Kangwa’s dribbles in the past calendar year.

What we can see here are three clusters. The first is found deep in his half, a node to his progressive qualities. In this respect, the most common scenario is Kangwa picking the ball off the toes of his defenders and charging forward and taking on one, two, three, or even four opposition players.

READ MORE: Ola Solbakken scouted for Rangers: The Bodo/Glimt winger with untapped goalscoring potential

Secondly, we can see a cluster of dribbles just in front of the halfway line. These are evidence of Kangwa’s ability to access the final third via dribbling. The abundance of them, many followed by shots, suggests he can navigate through compact and tight lines of midfielders and defenders and sometimes both in a single passage of play.

Finally, a cluster is found wide of and inside the penalty box. These are your classic be-lines towards shooting opportunities. Like the previous two, Kangwa is comfortable in this capacity.

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Scoring and Facilitating in The Final Third

Now for the fun bit. As the term, box-to-box would suggest, efficacy in and around the opponent’s penalty area is an important quality and undoubtedly one Kangwa has. So let’s look first at his ability to facilitate chance creation, arguably his trump card.

Below, we can see Kangwa’s assists and shots from the past calendar year. Off the bat, we can see a plethora of activity in the penalty box, with lots of square balls and diagonals. We can also identify several crosses from out-wide, which he excels at. There is a bit of foreshadowing, but Kangwa is a fantastic set-piece option, direct free kick or corner.

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Below is an example of one of Kangwa’s crosses. Here he picks up the second ball after a corner and sends it straight towards the front post. All eyes are on him, so his teammate gets a free ride at the ball and reciprocates the favour by scoring. Kangwa’s ability in wide channels and his crossing skills perfectly match the current fullback and winger setup at Rangers.

Kangwa would be a fantastic option to interplay with both the fullback and winger and has the skills to drift wide and take up an impromptu wide role whilst the winger moves inside and acts as a temporary inside forward.

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It's easier to pick someone out in the box when you’re not also in there, as the space is greater. Yet, Kangwa is still effective when operating in tight spaces in the penalty area. His touch, control, and spatial awareness allow him to manufacture passes despite in-opportune situations, as seen below. Even with three players crowding him out and upwards of five paying attention, Kangwa finds the open man and plays him in for a fantastic shooting opportunity.

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The most common slight of all Rangers’ central midfielders is that they are both shot and goal-shy, Kangwa is far from that.

Let’s not pretend he puts up numbers like a forward or even a 10. Still, he does provide a consistent and sustainable scoring threat, often from deep. We can see this below, in the form of his shot map from this season. The vast majority of Kangwa’s shots are from outside the box, which is sub-optimal. Still, his striking technique provides him with both accuracy and power. Even still, with the shots from inside the box, he does well, scoring three.

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A good example is found below. Here Kangwa has offered a late run a few seconds after the striker has offered his own, and as such, his run has gone untracked. The right-winger plays the ball to the edge of the box, which he meets and dispatches to the bottom corner.

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When we extend the range, Kangwa comes into his own. Let's not kid ourselves, he doesn't score with every or even half of his attempts from a distance, but he has a knack for getting them on target and scoring them at an excellent rate.

Below are two fantastic examples where he is given space and punishes the opposition for doing so, even if it is from as deep as 40 yards.

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Pressing and Defensive Efforts

As mentioned briefly earlier, Kangwa is an ever-present out of possession. He is an active, aggressive, yet risky defender and presser at times. He has that perfect balance of pace and stamina, which allows him to both consistently overwhelm and close down the opposition and do so for almost if not all of the 90.

Kangwa is also very good at staying in front of his man and picking his opportunities for when to pressure and engage and when to stand off and jockey. For a team of Rangers' level, his defensive ability alone is not enough to warrant him a place in the squad, however, when it supplements a practical and refined possession game, it becomes all the more impressive.

Rangers Comparisons

Below are radars comparing Kangwa with four of Rangers' existing central-midfield options. In terms of numerical similarity, Kangwa compares most alike with Aribo, another one who synthesis all facets of the game but is a star in possession. Again, it must be stressed that Kangwa’s ability to compete in these radars is more impressive when we consider how bad Arsenal Tula are.

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Fit and Feasibility

Though Kangwa is not the best player on the market, to my mind, he is one of, if not the best deal currently available.

With the current situation in Russia as a whole, coupled with Arsenal’s impending relegation, it's unlikely that any deal would cost anything beyond a six-digit figure. For such a price, you’re getting a young and talented midfielder who can fill in at practically any role in the centre of the park yet comes as a speciality box-to-box option, something Rangers are crying out for.

Given the mix of his age and career path, he would also likely not ask for crazy money and may accept a rotation role, giving the coaching staff and player alike time to settle in and not block other transfer movements. Also, there's no doubt the presence of a fellow Zambian Fashion Sakala would help when it comes to settling into Glasgow.