In the long-running drama of Rangers and Alfredo Morelos, episode season 2022/23, yesterday provided another entry.

It was no surprise to see the Colombian named on the substitute bench by Michael Beale, instead starting Antonio Colak and Fashion Sakala up top for the third game running. What did catch attention was Beale's post-match interview with Viaplay.

"Alfredo had the shirt, he was the only striker fit and he did very well and I think in the last 14 games he’s got seven goals and five assists so there's the one thing, he has performed,” Beale said after his side’s 3-0 win against Raith Rovers.

“He’s training really well in the background but I like Tony’s energy, I put Tony in midweek and I thought he and Fashion were fantastic. They had a contrasting game today.”

While naturally unable to comment on reports that Morelos had signed a pre-contract elsewhere, Beale said the forward’s situation was “slightly different” to that of Ryan Jack and Ryan Kent, both of whom the manager publicly declared he would like to retain beyond this summer.

“Ryan Jack’s in a place where I've said publicly I'd like him to stay and the same with Ryan Kent. So that's above me so you can communicate that,” Beale added.

"Alfredo’s situation is slightly different. He’s been in the club a long time and I need to see a little bit more from Alfredo day in, day out. I think when he's played and the team has needed him, he’s fine. But I want more energy in the final third. Can he provide that? If he can, he’s a better option than what he’s been in the last few months. I think that’s fair. Everything I’m saying has been told to his face."

This is not a situation comparable to the forward’s omission from the squad by Giovanni van Bronckhorst earlier in the season. It is, however, notable and Beale’s comments are undoubtedly calculated.

Is he trying to give Morelos one last spark into life, to show the form that merits the type of money a contract renewal would demand? Or, is this simple contingency planning for life without him at Ibrox?

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To understand what Beale's after, we can look at the Colak performances he alludes to. 

Cast your mind back to last Wednesday, when Rangers produced their best performance in months against Hibs. They recorded 3.99xG, attempted 31 shots and created a number of other attacking moments that lacked a final action.

In his post-match press conference, Beale insisted that every bit of attacking invention could be traced back to the work and energy shown off the ball.

READ MORE: Why Rangers' win over Hibs was 'all about the out of possession stuff' 

“We had some fantastic play and the energy was good. That all comes from the out-of-possession stuff, really,” he said.

“As impressive as we were with the ball it all came off the work ethic of the whole team, the whole 10 outfield players pressing, running and moving together.”

Colak’s defensive activity map from that game demonstrates he was as involved in his own half as the opposition’s.

There were a couple of occasions when he tracked opponents deep to help out his defence.

Because of the move to play two up top in the last week, with Kent tucking in behind, both wide strikers were expected to do more work than a single No.9 would. Ensuring the visitors weren't outnumbered on either flank.

Another role the Croatian carried out effectively throughout was blocking passing lanes to the full-back.

This forced Hibs to play long or go through the centre and created space down the side of the defence that would subsequently be exploited in transition. 

This is a simple yet hugely important detail. Defending starts from the front and the Ibrox side’s entire system off the ball, and their approach on it, relies on tactical discipline at the top of the pitch.

In terms of Colak’s pressure numbers in comparison to Morelos, there’s no vast difference.

In the chart below, which is possession-adjusted given Rangers dominate the ball in comparison to the majority of the league, Colak averages 16.24 pressures per 90 to Morelos’ 13.75.

Their counterpressure numbers, an attempt to regain the ball within five seconds of losing it, again don’t show a huge disparity with Colak’s 2.27 per 90 edging ahead of Morelos’ 1.82 total.

The 29-year-old has, of course, played less football under Beale and that should be considered.

Regardless, it's clear that Beale thinks Morelos is not giving everything he could in contrast to his competitor. Saying, "can he provide more, if he can, he's a better option than what he's been in the last few months".

Rangers have benefitted hugely from the energy and intensity Todd Cantwell and Nicolas Raskin have offered in midfield, with Glen Kamara, once the standout in the centre, resigned to the bench. 

Perhaps this is not a conversation about anything more than the need for freshness and evolution. Morelos has given so much over his spell at the club. Beale now seems to be seriously considering whether the attacker has shown enough recently to warrant spearheading Rangers beyond the summer.