Rangers haven’t just strengthened their squad this January, they’ve completely rebuilt it. The revamp project…
Graeme Murty is rightly receiving plaudits for how he has turned Rangers around. The Englishman has led the Ibrox outfit to seven wins in their last nine league games. He’s been instrumental in helping Rangers’ new signings hit the ground running and for his side playing free-flowing, easy-on-the-eye, attacking football. However, the person who has perhaps benefitted most from Murty’s second spell in charge is Josh Windass.
Not only has the winger penned a new deal which will see him remain in Govan until 2021, but he’s become one of the best, attacking players in the league. It’s difficult to believe this is the same player who failed to find the back of the net at all last season. Windass looked slightly more potent for Rangers at the start of the campaign, but it’s really since Pedro Caixinha’s departure that he’s transformed into the player we see today.
We delved into the numbers to take an in-depth look at just how significant Windass’ improvement has been.
The easiest and most obvious way to gauge Windass’ improvement is by goals and assists. He’s played notably more league games under Murty than he did for Caixinha, so we’ve taken the average goals and assists per 90 minutes.
The graph above doesn’t make for surprising reading, but it does emphatically show Windass’ increased effectiveness under Murty. When Caixinha was in charge the attacker only averaged 0.11 goals per game. That’s in stark contrast to the 0.56 he is currently averaging under Murty.
It’s a similar story when looking at assists. Windass averages 0.33 assists at present which is up from 0.22 when the Portuguese was in charge. To give this some context, the graph also compares the time it takes for Windass to produce a goal or assist under both managers. Unsurprisingly it takes less time for the Englishman to pop up with a goal or assist under Murty (98.9 minutes) than he did under Caixinha (225.3 minutes). What is noteworthy is just how significant the difference is. Simply put, it took Windass more than double the time to produce a goal or assist under Caixinha than it does under Murty.
Perhaps another metric is required as further evidence of Windass’ upturn in form. We can do this by looking at shots. It might sound simplistic, but it’s a useful way to see how often he’s getting shots away and how accurate they are.
The graph above shows Windass is now taking more shots per game (3.1) than he was before (2.7). This suggests a player playing with confidence who has faith in his own ability and is willing to have a shot on goal. Moreover, it can also be argued that it shows he’s getting himself into better positions that allow him to shoot.
What’s also important to note is the increase in accuracy of the attacker’s shots. Of the 25 shots Windass took playing under Caixinha only 3 were on target; that amounts 12%. Conversely, his shot accuracy is now 44.6%. Of the 56 shots he’s taken in Murty’s side 25 have been on target. The fact that Windass is shooting more often and with greater accuracy is a testament to his manager. He evidently feels confident and is comfortable with his role in this Rangers team.
There are a number of factors behind Windass’ upturn in form. The formation and system employed by Murty is certainly one of them. Whereas his predecessor tended to play 4-4-2, Murty likes to change it up and has played a variety of formations. We’ve seen him play a 4-4-2 diamond, 3-4-3, 4-1-3-2 and most recently 4-2-3-1.
The 4-2-3-1, in particular, has allowed Windass to thrive. Rangers have played this system in the last seven games where Windass has scored three goals and produced five assists. In fact, Murty has tended to play him in a more advanced position ever since taking over. Sometimes this has been on the left as part of a forward three or a number ten behind the striker. That decision has paid great dividends as Windass is significantly more effective in these positions than on the left wing.
The graph above highlights how much better Windass’ return is when he’s played in a more advanced position. He’s provided 14 goal and/or assists from there compared to just five when he’s played on the left-wing.
Murty has also bedded in his new signings with great effect. These are players which have also been beneficial to Windass. The new personnel along with the 4-2-3-1 formation means it’s as if Murty’s side is tailor-made for the 24-year-old.
Jamie Murphy playing on the left of a front three allows Windass to play through the centre. Similarly, Murphy and Daniel Candeias provide width and stretch the game, resulting in more space for Windass to exploit. The additions of Sean Goss and Greg Docherty have also been beneficial. Docherty is already showing he’s the engine room of this side and is impressive at turning attack into defence. Goss, on the other hand, has an impressive range of passing which has only been a good thing for Windass and his fellow attacking teammates. Simply put, since Murphy, Goss and Docherty made their debuts Windass has scored three and created five.
Rangers will be pleased they tied Windass down to a new contract. After all, if he continues this level of performance until the end of the season there will undoubtedly be sizeable bids from other clubs for his services.