“The pressure is always there at Rangers - you have to embrace it or it will kill you.”

Cyriel Dessers speaking in midweek.

If there is one criticism you’ve never been able to level at Dessers, and let’s just remember there have been many, it’s hiding. Even on his worst days the Nigerian forward kept popping up, kept hitting the goalkeeper, kept running offside. He was jeered at Ibrox plenty and when Philippe Clement’s first social media post as Rangers manager showed the Belgian watching back 6games, fate had it the still image screenshotted featured Dessers offside. Taken from a dismal 1-0 win over Motherwell, it was an image that felt representative of the mood Clement was inheriting.

Don’t things look brighter now. This week has been a big one for Cyriel. He scored the winner in Paisley yesterday afternoon as Rangers battled to a 1-0 win against St Mirren, found the net with effectively a first touch from the bench at Easter Road in midweek and opened the scoring against Dumbarton last Saturday.

If Dessers represented the disastrous start to this season - slow, ponderous and seemingly void of hope - then so too does he align with Rangers' renaissance under Clement - lighter, brighter and full of possibility.

The big moments in the big games still need to arrive. Failing to pull the trigger when one-on-one in the last Old Firm will still take some forgiving Ssouth of the river. But one goal at a time, Dessers is reshaping a story that seemed to hold an inevitable unhappy ending in October. A stand full of Rangers fans christening him with a song? That seemed more impossible than improbable the last time Rangers visited Paisley a few months ago.

Dessers spoke at Rangers’ training camp in La Manga of a “big difference” in his stats before and after Clement’s arrival and rightly so. Before, Dessers averaged 0.19goals/90 in the league and since, that’s jumped to 0.75. Only Lawrence Shankand’s 0.77goals/90 (not including penalties) ranks higher than Dessers’ total since Clement’s first game in the league. 

Take a look at the forward’s StatsBomb radar from October 21 to the present day. Remember, the closer to the boundaries and higher the ranking the better.

What is this showing me? Across four key metrics, Dessers’ 99/98th percentile ranking rates the best in the league, His pressure numbers are high, he’s creating for others (shown by the xGAssisted metric) and setting the standards for involvement in the box, xG and shots.

If we compare that boundary-hitting radar to Dessers' underlying numbers from the first eight games of the league season, the contrast is clear. 

It’s important to remember that Dessers was still building sharpness under Michael Beale and criticism of the now-Sunderland manager’s start to the season is fair, but cannot disclude what’s quickly becoming apparent: Signing Dessers was not the dud move everyone believed it to be in October.

READ MORE: Inside Dujon Sterling's midfield move: Clement's solutions and a platform to shine

In equal measure, the credit truly belongs to Clement. Dessers has spoken of the confidence he feels playing under the Belgian and clearly, the playing style and environment suit him far better. From three goals in 11 starts across all competitions, Dessers now has nine in 15.

“We spoke about [my confidence] but at this point, we don't need to talk about it every day," Dessers said recently. "He [Clement] knows what I can do, I know he sees my qualities and now I have to work hard and fight for the team.”

All but one of the ex-Feyenoord striker's league goals have come from the left of the penalty spot and that was a goal against Motherwell which deflected off a forward run. There’s a clear pattern seen across the summer signing's goals to date, whether that be a solo run against Real Betis or yesterday’s deft finish at the Smisa stadium.

Looking at the forward’s eight league goals a pattern to score on the left is clear.

Yesterday's finish was another entry. After John Lundstram received a ball on the half turn, Dessers was primed to run behind on the left having moved between wide centre-back and wing-back.

After timing his run to perfection and benefiting from an equally on-point pass, Dessers rounds the keeper with confidence to score.

🔵 Rangers are in front!

Cyriel Dessers puts Rangers 1-0 up against St Mirren ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/irCYsG0qqV

Perhaps, speaking generally, that’s the main quality we’ve seen in these past couple of months when compared to the start of the season. It feels like movement and instinct show up as Dessers' primary weapons. Not particularly fast nor a hold-up merchant, the winner in Paisley demonstrated what he's about. After a goal against Livingston last November Dessers' statement that he was a striker better "facing the goal" has come to pass. Offsides feel far less frequent and although finishes are rarely emphatic, they’re finding a way into the net for a reason. When he went through on goal this time there was confidence from the away end a goal would follow.

Clement admitted after yesterday's game that his side were forced to play with an element of pragmatism given the conditions and nature of the pitch, saying: “It was difficult to find our normal combination play in the middle.” Plying over pressure didn’t always come off but in the moment that mattered, Dessers delivered. It would ultimately be enough for all three points in Paisley.

At full-time on the last occasion of this fixture at the ground, Dessers watched on as the away support serenaded Steven Davis. He'd have felt very far away from a spot on centre stage himself. While there's still ways to go, and big goals to score, Dessers has earned his week on centre stage. It's his goals which have shifted a dial of popularity in the forward's favour. A nightmare start looks like it's turning around, one goal at a time.