TIMING is everything in football, which meant news of Allan McGregor’s contract renewal on social media earlier this week went down like a lead balloon.

Supporter sentiment during the summer months is largely dictated by the nature of their club’s transfer business and, with Rangers yet to make an addition to the squad, a move to preserve one of last season’s main protagonists was viewed as a backwards step.

It is difficult to refute the suggestion that McGregor suffered a drop-off in form last season as Rangers relinquished their Scottish Premiership crown. At 40-years of age, meanwhile, it’s equally difficult to hang onto the hope that improvement is just around the corner.

However, there is evidence to suggest that McGregor has one last spin around the block, regardless of whether the former Scotland cap retains the No.1 jersey heading into next season.

When McGregor returned to the club under Steven Gerrard in the summer of 2018, the goalkeeping position wasn’t viewed as an immediate priority. Wes Foderingham had proven an able No.1 during his time at the club, although there were signs that the Englishman’s performances were beginning to creak.

McGregor raised the standards in the defensive department with a string of fine goalkeeping performances in the 2018/19 campaign, preventing 3.55 goals above average (GSAA).

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However, there was a slight drop-off in his underlying shot-stopping numbers the following season, with his GSAA dipping to just 1.36.

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During the Invincible league campaign that delivered the club their 55th league title, however, McGregor enjoyed perhaps his most stellar individual campaign as a Rangers player. He prevented 5.22 goals above average as Gerrard’s men conceded just 13 goals throughout the league season.

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Such a heroic goalkeeping campaign was always going to be difficult to replicate, with McGregor’s GSAA figures dipping to just 0.94 in last season’s league campaign. It meant that, coupled with Rangers’ natural defensive regression, there wasn’t much resistance between the posts when the side were on the backfoot. In a Scottish Premiership environment where Rangers don’t tend to concede a huge volume of shots, it stands out more.

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Indeed, goalkeeping performance is often inextricably linked with the collective defensive resilience. Rangers were a defensive behemoth in 2020/21, limiting both the quantity and quality of the shots that McGregor had to contend with. Last season, with a managerial change mid-season, saw a natural drop-off in those defensive figures.

It’s interesting to note the parallels in McGregor’s numbers between last season and the 2018/19 campaign. Systemically, Rangers are now more similar to Gerrard’s debut term given Giovanni van Bronckhorst has reverted to using wide wingers in his 4-3-3.

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If we look at the locations of the shots the 40-year-old faced last season, there is a noticeable cluster towards the left-hand side of the goal.

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Similarly, his 2018/19 campaign seen a considerable number of goals leaked towards his left-hand post.

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In contrast, he let in just one shot throughout the entire title-winning campaign that was aimed towards his left-hand side.

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Given Gerrard moved to a narrow 4-3-3 through the 2019/20 and 2020/21 campaigns, it stands to reason that McGregor is more protected from shots from distance. With van Bronckhorst having introduced more width, Rangers are less compact through the middle. Reo Hatate’s long-range effort in the 3-0 defeat to Celtic in February – where McGregor was beaten to the left of centre – illustrates the downsides of the Dutchman's approach perfectly.

The glass half-full take regarding McGregor’s new contract is that the 40-year-old is no stranger to responding to adversity.

Alongside Andy Goram, the Gers goalkeeper will rightly go among the greatest shot-stoppers in the club’s history. When the peaks of McGregor’s performance levels are so high, it’s only natural that the troughs that can feel destabilising.

Van Bronckhorst was keen to emphasise the intangibles that the 40-year-old brings to the dressing room upon news of his contract extension. Whether he retains his No.1 jersey next season is entirely different matter.