Over pre-season, there’s been the development of a narrative suggesting Todd Cantwell’s best position may now be occupied by somebody else.

Has Rangers’ best performer from last season been moved out of his ideal playing environment with the arrival of Sam Lammers? That's despite the fact that only a handful of Cantwell’s best performances arrived in the free No.10 role currently occupied by the Dutch forward last season, also thriving on either side of the midfield with a variety of differing responsibilities.

Yesterday, in a 2-1 win over Servette that Rangers ought to have made more convincing, Cantwell was unquestionably the standout, often starting at the very base of midfield before joining the attack. Only James Tavernier made more passes (90) than Cantwell (80) and Lammers (20) more pressures (19). He was at the centre of everything Michael Beale’s side did well, after a surprise omission last Saturday against Kilmarnock.

This match was further proof of the fact that rather than thinking about Cantwell’s position, we ought to consider his role. He’s at his best when at the forefront of a match, right on its edge ready to decide outcomes and seize responsibility. And playing with the positional freedom demonstrated all throughout his Ibrox career to date, Cantwell has the autonomy to move and impact as he sees fit.

Beale wants to give his attackers freedom, especially those who play off the front in free, attacking midfield positions. In Lammers, and Cantwell, he has individuals with clear football brains alongside technical quality. 

It’s the fine margins Cantwell brings, like reading where David Douline was set to swing his leg and setting off to plant his body and win an opening penalty, or later making the ball inches ahead of the same opponent who would see red, that helps to swing matches. It's the energy provided in all aspects of play so obviously missing when he's not in the team.

Last night against Servette, Cantwell lined up on the left of a midfield three, often picking up the ball ahead of the Swiss side’s attack. Notice in the game's pass network below Cantwell’s starting position is behind Borna Barisic, who was trying to get high and wide at every opportunity. He was slightly deeper than Nico Raskin on the opposite flank.

That enabled Cantwell to slot into the left-back zone and coordinate Rangers' play. Receiving possession in this area of the pitch suits Cantwell. As a right footer, he can get on the ball and find angles a left-footer would struggle to access, enabling Beale’s men greater opportunity to break lines, play inside the pitch and disrupt the defensive block faced.

More importantly, with football matches now played in such condensed spaces as teams try to limit areas their opponents can play within, it enables Rangers to get their creators on the ball dictating play.

As demonstrated in his passes received map below, it was predominantly this left-back slot that enabled Cantwell to get on the ball.

So often on Saturday, the only other competitive performance of this season to date, Rangers lacked creators on the ball ahead of Kilmarnock's block. Beale referenced this in pre-season, admitting he wants creative players facing the game, as opposed to operating high up the pitch and waiting for defenders to find them with their back to goal. When starting a little deeper in the pitch in games of this nature, Cantwell provides just that. Of course, there’s a license to join the attack but firstly, the midfielder’s job is to build them.

Take the first goal, which can be traced all that way back to Cantwell in the first line of play.

Rotating into the left-back spot, he plays inside the pitch to find Raskin before receiving the ball again in the centre and fizzing it out towards Connor Goldson as he continues his run forwards.

Often, it can be a singular pass that breaks down an opponent’s defensive block but more regularly, it’s a team-wide attempt to pull them out of one position and into others, exploiting the space throughout.

READ MORE: Inside Todd Cantwell's Norwich rise with his ex-coach 

In this case, it takes the speed of Cantwell’s pass to the right for Rangers to move Servette before punching the ball back vertically to the centre where there’s space for the midfielder to push forward and receive.

Tavernier releases Lammers and as it becomes apparent that the attacker’s cutback won’t reach the box but Douline, Cantwell sets off, spotting a chance to steal in behind his marker’s blindside…

The second goal’s sequence all starts with Cantwell winning the ball back, as was so often the case throughout the match, on this occasion from Chris Bedia. Allowing Rangers to regain possession and begin the task of building beyond Servette pressure.

In this instance, Cantwell drops into the middle of the back three, attempting to stretch the Swiss outfit’s first line of two, find a gap and break beyond.

Picking the ball up from Souttar, he drags Bedia away from the left-hand channel, buying his teammate just enough space and time to burst beyond after returning the ball into that channel, and then covering his centre-back’s forward run.

It’s a small detail, but these are the fine margins that help split defences and create goals. Without just the right timing of action, Souttar can't count on this space to burst forwards.

Too often in recent seasons, Rangers have spent matches playing ahead of the opposition, with their least creative players on the ball. Although a different type of game against Kilmarnock last Saturday, you never really got the sense that Derek McInnes’ side were made to feel truly uncomfortable, the play they faced felt too predictable. Handing Cantwell the freedom to control the build-up and join the attack prevents this.

Off the ball, he was just as much an asset, making 19 pressures and 12 ball recoveries, regularly the method by which his side could restart attacks.

Cantwell possesses an intangible blend of qualities that are difficult to properly bookend or define. Rather than relying on one or two exceptional attributes, he has a fair bit of everything; aggression and intelligence in his pressing, invention and vision in his passing and a tendency to speed up and slow down matches at just the right time.

"I said when I came here the manager is going to give me the freedom to play the way I want to and I think you’re starting to see that because I’m picking up the ball in lots of places," he said speaking in April.

“The reason I came here was because of the manager really. As far as the bits and pieces day in day out and what you’re seeing from me now, I have a bit more freedom. It’s exactly what we planned. I know the best of me is yet to come but I’m enjoying myself at the moment.”

Whether his role is at the tip or tail of midfield, the midfielder is playing a style of football that suits him with the freedom to play his game. Whatever good Rangers do this season will have Cantwell right at the heart of it.