Rangers squad building nicely, but questions still remain

Posted by John Gow

Stanley Chou/Getty ImagesNew Rangers midfielder Arnold Peralta helped lead Honduras to a surprising quarterfinal appearance at last summer's Olympics.

If Rangers fans put financial issues aside and concentrate on their starting eleven for the Second Division (or whatever it will be called in the new Scottish Professional Football League) then most of the new signings from Ally McCoist make sense.

Former Kilmarnock stopper Cammy Bell will replace Neil Alexander in goal. Nicky Law, who was voted into the PFA Scotland SPL Team of the Year, will come into bolster the midfield. Jon Daly will be a solid target man up-front or can cover at centre-half, while Nicky Clark, who was already the Second Division's top scorer, has shown he will get goals.

These are all known quantities and should be immediate first-team picks, so it's the last two signings from the Rangers manager that are the most intriguing.

The first is Honduran international, Arnold Peralta, from Vida on a four-year deal. It's hard to judge what he will be like since Honduran football is not high-profile in Scotland (no slight on Honduras, since neither is Scottish football in Honduras) but supposedly he is a strong, rugged defensive midfielder.

There is an amusing You Tube video of Arnold Peralta, obviously made by opposing fans, which show his 'strong' play in a single game for Honduras against Panama. It hardly shows the best of the player, but it does give an inkling he won't be scared of getting stuck into the Second Division battle. Watching the video, the old phrase 'taking no prisoners' comes to mind. (Interestingly he looks as if he is in the right-back position for most of the tackles.)

If he is a defensive midfielder then it's unlikely he or Ian Black will be in the same team. Assuming Lewis Macleod and Nicky Law are definite starters alongside David Templeton in midfield, then the permutations decrease dramatically.

Whether McCoist plays a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 you would still have Little, Daly, Shiels, Clark, Aird, McKay and McCulloch vying for the other places -- unless Daly and/or McCulloch will be played at the back which is a likely scenario for at least part of the season.

And to complicate things further -- although the Rangers manager will be pleased with it -- is the signing on Tuesday of Stevie Smith. The left-back is rejoining the club on a two-year deal after playing in MLS. He is not an unknown quantity in personality, but he has been ravaged by injuries over the years and it's difficult to say what kind of a player the club will get.

He's probably just there for cover, but it raises the prospect of him playing from the start and Lee Wallace moving into left-midfield. The Rangers vice-Captain is terrific going forward, and if Smith can be consistent at left-back then it might be an option for McCoist.

The one thing that has been strange, if we exclude Jon Daly, is the lack of a new central defender. This was Rangers' biggest weakness last season and neither Emilson Cribari or Ross Perry seemed up for the task.

The Rangers management team know this, but the uncertainty over the Dorin Goian and Carlos Bocanegra situations means they can't risk new people coming in. It's unlikely the two loan players want to play in the Second Division, and equally unlikely Rangers want to pay huge wages for the privilege, but until that is sorted the club's hands are tied.

Whatever happens with the team this season, it seems the squad will be much stronger. Good enough for the league? Undoubtedly. Good enough to win the League Cup or Scottish Cup? It's possible on a lucky streak, but there is still some way to go yet.

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