One undisputed ray of positivity to emerge from Rangers’ start to the season is summer signing Antonio Colak.

The 29-year-old Croatian arrived after a long-running transfer hold-up with his former club PAOK for £1.8million and has scored nine goals in 12 starts. Providing two crucial strikes in the Champions League double-header with PSV, the equaliser in the previous round with Union Saint-Gilloise and six league goals from seven starts.

Focusing on the Scottish Premiership alone he’s averaged 1.03 goals per 90 from 0.52xG per 90. He’s, therefore, scoring at double the rate of expectation based on the chances he’s had so far.

Of all Rangers players who have recorded 300 or more minutes, Colak’s goal threat and return is in a league of its own.

Rangers Review: xG x non-penalty goals per 90xG x non-penalty goals per 90 (Image: StatsBomb)

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s two No.9s profile differently. Colak is a penalty-box forward who does his best work between the sticks and is somewhat limited outside of the final third. Alfredo Morelos cannot be counted on to find the net with the same regularity displayed by Colak during his initial stint at the club, having averaged 13.6 league goals a season since arriving in 2017. However, his all-around game is far stronger and when he goes on a purple patch, the Colombian possesses the complete package.

What Rangers have lacked in recent years is a clinical forward capable of capitalising against domestic defences. It’s something Kemar Roofe did successfully in 2020/21 when available for selection and appears to be exactly what the former Malmo forward will offer.

Colak’s shot map from the Scottish Premiership depicts 24 efforts, 21 of which have been taken from inside the area.

Rangers Review: Antonio Colak Scottish Premiership shot map Antonio Colak Scottish Premiership shot map (Image: Statsbomb)

His 5.06 Post-Shot xG (PSxG), which measures the likelihood of a goal after a shot has been taken, shows he is finishing above expectation

Rangers Review: Antonio Colak Scottish Premiership PSxG shot mapAntonio Colak Scottish Premiership PSxG shot map (Image: Statsbomb)

As a comparison, Morelos scored 12 goals from 14.86xG last season and his PSxG was 11.7. Meaning, the attacker underperformed in front of goal based on the chances he received.

Speaking after his first goal against Kilmarnock in August, Colak said, "I am feeling better game by game, I am learning to see the movements and passes of every player." Ever since he has validated that claim.

Already we’re seeing trends emerge in how he attacks the ball from either flank, improving chemistry with teammates and consistent evidence of his instinctive nature in front of goal. Crucially, that is being reciprocated in return and Rangers are not playing to Colak as if he is Morelos.

It’s no surprise that James Tavernier (34) and Borna Barisic (24) have attempted the most passes into the forward given they are the chief creators from either flank.

By narrowing the search down to successful passes, a visible trend emerges in the final third that corroborates with the above shot map.

With a cluster of shots close to goal on the left-hand side of the box and from deeper range on the right. Barisic’s overlapping deliveries from the left have generally been delivered towards the near post while Tavernier’s have come from deeper in the pitch and targeted areas closer to the penalty spot.

Rangers Review: Borna Barisic and James Tavernier passes to Antonio Colak in the Scottish PremiershipBorna Barisic and James Tavernier passes to Antonio Colak in the Scottish Premiership (Image: Statsbomb)

Colak is a striker who thrives on crosses and relies on one or two-touch finishing to score. Of his nine goals so far, six have been one-touch finishes and the other three two-touch finishes. It appears that Rangers are tailoring their deliveries to suit the forward’s strengths with this in mind.

Cutbacks from the right allow Colak to apply his tailored, across-the-body finish and find the bottom corner. It’s a skill the Rangers support were first exposed to when he scored two goals across his body for Malmo in the Champions League qualifier at Ibrox last season.

This type of delivery from the left wouldn’t carry the same effect, as Colak is weaker on that side and would need to open his body up to strike from his right foot. A difficult task to carry out quickly in a crowded penalty area. As a result, it’s more commonplace to see Colak attack the front post area when the ball comes in from the left and seek to utilise Barisic’s quality of delivery.

Barisic’s delivery is also less variable than Tavernier’s. He’ll more often than not play a curling ball whereas the captain is more capable of cutting infield and mixing up his execution.

On the right-hand side of the box, it’s common to see Colak hold his run and receive a cutback as suggested. In this example against Ross County, he anticipates Scott Wright’s run, holds his position at the edge of the box before adjusting his body to volley into the far corner.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Against Dundee United at the weekend, he resists the temptation to get as close to goal as possible while Tavernier marauds down the right. By holding his position, he can receive, run onto the ball, take one touch and find the corner.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Another example can be found in the home leg against PSV when Colak’s intentional hanging-back, rather than attacking across the front as depicted by the red line, creates a clear area for Tavernier to aim his cross. Another superb, instinctive finish follows.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

On the left, as mentioned, Colak’s movement is different and normally targets areas closer to goal.

For his second of the afternoon against Dundee United, he hangs in the blindspot of Ryan Edwards while Barisic receives the ball, ensuring he arrives in the highlighted zone rather than occupying it while remaining far enough from the defender to get a free run at the ball.

Rangers Review:

As Barisic prepares to swing, look at Colak’s position. He is clear of Edwards’ attention, able to attack the ball because he is moving into space at the right time and Charlie Mulgrew (No.4) doesn’t seem to know he is even there.

Rangers Review:

This means that although the cross is slightly short, Mulgrew is not aware of the Croatian’s presence and therefore easily nudged off the ball. If not for the clever movement to ghost in on this area, you suspect the veteran defender would’ve moved towards the ball and prioritised early contact. 

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Another example of Colak’s movement at left-sided crosses can be found in the chance he missed during the heavy Old Firm defeat. He is again on the defender’s blindside and would’ve expected to do better with the chance.

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review: StatsbombStatsbomb (Image: Statsbomb)

Or, this clever decoy run that pulls Rocky Bushiri (No.33) out of position to allow Tom Lawrence a free header against Hibs.

Rangers Review: StatsbombStatsbomb (Image: Statsbomb)

Rangers Review: StatsbombStatsbomb (Image: Statsbomb)

 

Rangers Review:

Rangers Review:

The early signs suggest Colak’s recruitment will be a resounding piece of success. This is anything but a judgment that can be cast across the seven summer signings with Ridvan Yilmaz, Ben Davies and Rabbi Matondo yet to make any sort of an impact.

In Colak, however, the club appear to have signed a guaranteed goalscorer who has acclimatised quickly. Now, they need others around him to reach their highest performance levels.