From cheers to boos at Rangers and Sheyi Ojo’s big test away from Liverpool

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Sheyi Ojo is not the first Liverpool loanee to struggle at Rangers, but could he still overcome the boos and make his name in Scotland like Ryan Kent?

Since Steven Gerrard took charge at Ibrox three young Reds have made the temporary switch, with Ovie Ejaria soon followed by Kent in 2018, before Ojo’s move in June.

Ejaria’s time north of the border quickly soured, and he left the club mid-campaign and in questionable circumstances, but for Kent, joining the Gers revitalised his young career.

The winger rejoined the club in the summer, in a permanent deal worth £7 million, with his success in the Scottish Premiership laying out the blueprint for Ojo to follow.

It began well, but the 22-year-old is now no longer a regular in Gerrard’s starting lineup, and his reputation among the fans has taken a downward spiral—he does, however, still contribute from the bench.

Gerrard still clearly has faith in Ojo, but will his time with Rangers follow the route of Ejaria or Kent?

To get the lowdown on Ojo’s form in Glasgow, and why things have faded, This Is Anfield spoke to The Athletic’s Jordan Campbell (@JordanC1107).

 

Ojo described Rangers as the “right destination” for him on his move, but was there the same feeling from Glasgow?

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, July 10, 2018: Liverpool's Sheyi Ojo celebrates scoring the second goal during a preseason friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

I don’t think Ojo excited the Rangers support but the progress of Ryan Kent last season obviously heightened expectations.

The attitude towards loan players hasn’t been great in recent years as there is a feeling that the fans would rather see their own players developed rather than other clubs’.

There remains a scepticism about Liverpool’s loan deals after it was confirmed that if their players don’t fulfil a certain quota of games then the fee due to be paid will be much higher.

It was the same with Ovie Ejaria when he was here as fans would claim he was only playing because he had to.

Overall though, I think the mood was positive around his signing as he offered pace and a threat cutting in from the right wing which Daniel Candeias had vacated.

He won Player of the Year in 2017/18 but it was widely agreed that the position needed to be upgraded, especially when Gerrard started playing the wide players narrower.

 

There was excitement surrounding his early displays but that seems to have faded – why is that?

Rangers Sheyi Ojo celebrates after scoring his sides sixth goal during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Image: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire.

I think there is a perception problem around Ojo. He clearly has talent and the physical attributes to play at a high level but his languid style is often mistaken for being lazy or lacking heart.

It’s not unique to the Rangers support but they are a demanding crowd and if players aren’t wearing their heart on their sleeve then they get on top of them quickly.

Ojo looks like he is struggling for confidence now due to this. He had probably his worst game in Switzerland against Young Boys where his first touch was erratic and he kept being dispossessed without showing much fight.

Michael Beale got up from his seat several times to try to encourage him and provoke a reaction but he seemed to be going through the motions.

His early performances saw him score four in his first seven games. He wasn’t having great all-round performances but he was proving efficient in front of goal which was promising considering he is only 22.

However, after his goal against Feyenoord there has been a spell now for a couple of months where he is not contributing enough.

He is guilty of giving away possession too cheaply as he seems to relax too much at times.

For a boy with such a powerful physique and rapid acceleration he doesn’t commit defenders enough, instead choosing to slow the game down and burst from a standing start.

In recent weeks, however, there have been signs that this is changing as he has looked to be more direct when he has come on as a sub and has been pressing with more intensity.

It seems that the need to show commitment is being drummed into him.

He’s at his best when he cuts in and gets a shot away on his left foot but it’s too rare an occurrence at the moment.

 

Could Ojo still produce a career-changing season at Rangers, like Ryan Kent?

Rangers' Ryan Kent celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match at the Hope CBD Stadium, Hamilton (Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images)

I find it difficult to see him developing at the same rate as Kent did last season but people forget that at this stage last season Kent was only just coming into his own.

The first couple of months he was very mixed and looked to run into dead-ends at times. He only had three goals before Christmas too.

I think if Ojo produces a big moment in the next month that it could be the confidence boost he needs to kick on, but Rangers is a difficult place to change opinion.

That right wing role is still up for grabs though, and I believe that if the coaching staff could pick one player to find their best form it would be Ojo due to how electric he can be at times.

At the moment he looks best as an impact sub who can exploit teams on the break but he needs to learn to adapt his game like Kent did when it comes to playing against packed defences.


* Many thanks to Jordan Campbell for his invaluable take on Ojo’s loan so far, you can follow him on Twitter @JordanC1107.

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