After arriving in amongst a heavy fixture load, Philippe Clement’s start to life at Rangers has seen a return to basics.

On the ball, his team are playing a 4-2-3-1 shape with definable positions. A midfield three which took on various forms and formats before the Belgian’s arrival is now settled structurally from game to game.

Sam Lammers has been the manager’s pick at No.10, John Lundstram the deepest midfielder and Nico Raskin or Ryan Jack the intermediary link.

That system is clear surveying Rangers’ passing network against Livingston just before this international break - with two wingers, a double-pivot midfield, deeper full-backs and No.10 playing close to the striker.

Clement has not mentioned the transfer window once since arriving at Ibrox, with his sole focus on the development of tools currently available.

However, just as the lack of depth on either wing has become apparent since his arrival, the midfield pairing is not dissimilar in its need for recalibration. While Rangers have signed good players over the past couple of years, they haven’t always signed the right ones. A lack of consistent decision-making in regard to recruitment is influencing all areas of the squad at present. Whether that be the hearty investment in Ridvan Yilmaz who’s not in the European squad, money spent in the forward areas on players in Lammers and Cyriel Dessers or chopping and changing of styles in the dugout.

Speaking on the Training Ground Guru podcast this week about his time at New York Red Bulls, now Everton Sporting Director Kevin Thelwell explained his former club's recruitment policy, saying: “It would often be a case of ‘this guy is a really good player, but he’s not a Red Bull player.' They were really clear about playing identity and what they wanted from each player in their positions.”

Podcast host Simon Austin summarised that the opposite of this approach is different managers recruiting for different styles, suggesting: “Then it's like putting the pieces for different jigsaw puzzles in a box and expecting someone to be able to put one together…”

Sound familiar? Puzzle is one of the words Clement has repeated since coming in the door. The centre of midfield is not immune to that task. So, assessing the current state of his options, who fits the style Clement wants to play in the middle?

If you need a reminder, StatsBomb radar boundaries are position-specific. Midfielders’ passing stats, for example, are compared to others in their position. The closer to the boundary lines the better.

John Lundstram

Lundstram ranks highly across three specific metrics. Passing accuracy, xGBuildUp (his involvement in Rangers’ build-up to chances) and deep progressions (passes and carries into the final third). An extremely low xG Assisted (shots created directly for teammates) should come as no surprise. For the midfielder’s qualities, he’s not a deep-lying creative.

READ MORE: Analysing Rabbi Matondo's dribbling style and how he can move from sub to starter

Lundstram looks to have recovered some mojo under Clement. For one, a quicker style of play suits the 29-year-old who always appears better-suited playing in a more open match, rather than when he’s asked to set the tempo at the base of midfield. Arguably, Lundstram’s biggest issue since coming to Ibrox has been the lack of an alternative pure No.6 in the squad. Think of the midfielder’s best performances, in and out of the Europa League. They’ve arrived when there’s reason to use his engine, ping passes over distance and dominate physically in the middle of the pitch - not when the remit is picking the lock of a deep-lying defence and coordinating Rangers’ method of attack. Signed on the back of box-to-box performances for Sheffield United in the Premier League, it’s often felt as though Lundstram’s become this team’s No.6 by default domestically. Although he shows redeemable qualities in that position during some domestic fixtures, others show his limitations. Far from the most creative profile in the team, tasking him with that burden is not the answer when space is limited. With that said, Lundstram has a unique profile that’s come alive in big games for a reason. He fits under the new manager in a more general midfield role and an extension beyond this summer would make sense, so long as another creative profile arrives at Ibrox in addition. Although it should be noted that with Bailey Rice only improving and Clement known to trust youth, the answer at No.6 might already be in the building. 

Ryan Jack

The favourite of every Rangers manager who has been and will be. Jack’s radar, like Lundstram’s, is arguably quite descriptive of his game. Often he’ll run the hard yards, play the passes which retain possession and pick up positions that guard against counterattacks. Take his data with a pinch of salt due to limited minutes but the eye has seen enough of Rangers’ No.8 to know what he brings and what he does not. Jack has played higher than Lundstram in the midfield pairing under Clement. He’s more effective in tight spaces while his partner’s two-footed diagonals from deep open-up options. Throughout his time at Ibrox, the Scottish international has rarely been the focal point in the midfield and more often the complementary figure who makes things tick. And just ask Steven Gerrard, on his day he can be brilliant, offering versatility, ball retention, tactical intelligence and much more. At 31, Jack is no longer a long-term option but over the course of the remainder of this season will likely prove an important cog in Clement’s machine.

Nico Raskin

Raskin is in a similar boat to Todd Cantwell - as of yet, he's not quite been able to kick on and build consistently on the promise shown last season. The Belgian, like Cantwell, has suffered from constantly seeing his role and position in the team change but under Clement, such consistency should arrive. Raskin’s radar looks far more complete than any of his midfield partners because, in short, he’s a far more complete player. Although extremely one-footed, the youngster can pass or carry his way out of trouble, create chances directly and break up counterattacks at will. His second-half performance away against Servette earlier this season was a perfect demonstration of the dominance Raskin displays in duels and his use of speed to win defensive one-on-ones - something the Rangers Review highlighted in a scout report when he joined the club earlier this year.

READ MORE: What it's like to manage Nico Raskin - 'He brings fire to games on his own' 

So, with more than one creative bone in his body, ball-winning ability and the tools to unlock defences, surely Raskin will be Clement’s No.6 in games against the low block moving forward? Not necessarily. In an enlightening interview with the Rangers Review earlier this year, Raskin’s former manager at Standard Liege, Luka Elsner, explained why in his mind, the 22-year-old is not yet a No.6: “He is not a sitting, holding midfielder. That doesn’t define him. I think he needs to be able to move forward. He can work in a double pivot. But needs to be a guy who can be one step further, and is also able to get on the ball a bit higher in the final third. Defensively, he also needs freedom to go and press higher. His game doesn’t function well when everything is static. He’s strong in the transitions as well. I would see him more as a No.8 than a No.6 but I don’t expect him to be in trouble if he plays in a double-pivot.”

Raskin can sometimes be found guilty of rushing passes when playing as the deepest midfielder and as his former manager stresses, doesn’t function well in game states that are static. Like Lundstram, he’s arguably become a victim of his environment. If he plays at the base of midfield, who’s your busy midfielder able to carry the ball beyond defenders and provide legs higher up? If he’s always ahead of the ball, who’s going to find a way through the block? With a perfect progressive profile, there’s no reason that Raskin can not become this side’s No.6 with time. However, he’s a player Clement will want as involved as possible and in a league lacking space to limit the “static” positions highlighted, that’s more likely to arrive in the higher pivot spot this season.

Jose Cifuentes

Just like Jack’s example, we need to sound the small sample-size trumpet. With under five 90 minutes in the league to his name - Jose Cifuentes simply has not played enough football to merit data-driven conclusions. The above radar can offer stylistic hints, however. We can see that alongside hitting the same rough benchmarks across ball progression, pass accuracy and passes/carries into the final third, Cifuentes’ 0.26xG Assisted per 90 ranks as one of the highest for midfielders in the league. As mentioned, he’s not played enough football to earn that tag and has enjoyed more attacking freedom than his peers. But as the eye test confirms, the Ecuador international can play a defence-splitting pass, especially from the right half-space.

In this writer’s opinion, while Cifuentes could well enjoy a flourishing Ibrox career, it’s hard to identify a place for him in Clement’s early system. The 24-year-old was a player who was long-tracked by the club but there’s a nagging sense that he was a stylistic fit for the narrow 4-3-3 system that departed with Michael Beale last month. Cifuentes offers channel running down the right, excellent delivery from the half-space and qualities more useful in the final third than his own third. In short, he appeared a perfect fit for what Beale required last season in that right-sided role. Arguably, like Kieran Dowell, while Cifuentes may well be a good player, does he have a clear role in Clement's 4-2-3-1? 

With an abundance of profiles to play narrow attacking midfield positions and a lack of strength in depth elsewhere, Clement has a 'puzzle' in midfield which he's found solutions for so far. Like many areas in the team, the centre of the pitch is a demonstration of why recruitment between managers and styles must become more consistent at Ibrox.