We’re now well and truly in to 2018 and as such it’s time to figure…
February saw something of a return to normality in domestic football, with the Scottish Premiership kicking back into full swing and the return of the Scottish Cup. However, which players stood out throughout the league in each and every position? We took a look at the stats and came up with four leading examples.
Every month TheTwoPointOne chooses the Scottish Premiership players of the month for the Sunday Herald. This article initially appeared in the paper on Sunday, March 4.
Despite a recent defeat to Rangers, Craig Levein’s Hearts side did reasonably well throughout the month of February with draws against Ross County and Kilmarnock as well as two wins over St Johnstone – and a large part of that was down to their defensive solitude.
At the heart (no pun intended) of that defence is Jon McLaughlin. A shot-stopper that has not only excelled for his side but managed to earn the attention of neutral fans as well, with many suggesting a possible call-up to the Scotland national team.
Indeed, McLaughlin’s form is perfectly illustrated through the manner in which he comfortably made more reflex saves than any other Premiership goalkeeper over the course of February. A solid and inspirational figure between the posts for Hearts.
Although Hearts may have enjoyed a relatively successful month, their cross-city rivals Hibernian undoubtedly went one step further after picking up wins over Rangers and Aberdeen, while Steve Clarke’s elusive Kilmarnock side were forced to share a point with the Easter Road side.
At the very centre of two of those games was 19-year-old central defender Ryan Porteous, who not only filled in and did a solid job but effectively thrived under the pressure of stepping up to the senior team.
Clearing headers and making tackles is one thing, but Porteous’ talent seemed to lie in intercepting passes from Rangers and Kilmarnock attackers. And as we can see, no defender had a better rate of interceptions per 90 minutes than the young, Hibs player. Undoubtedly an exciting talent for the future.
Aside from the aforementioned defeat to Hibs, Rangers were pretty fantastic over the course of February and managed to not only leapfrog Aberdeen but close the gap on Celtic from 11 points to just six by picking up four wins from five.
Josh Windass, Graeme Murty’s transformed No.10, is perhaps the best individual example of how the Ibrox side have managed to step up a gear and take a full sprint at their hopes and dreams for the remainder of the season.
Although Jamie Murphy came in a close second, no midfielder in the Scottish Premiership managed to top Windass’ tally of goals and assists throughout the month of February. A sure sign that the attacking midfielder is pivotal to Rangers’ new-found form.
Alongside Windass in Rangers’ new “goals, goals, goals” system is undoubtedly the ever-present goalscorer Alfredo Morelos. Although the Rangers striker didn’t technically outscore the likes of David Templeton, Alex Schalk or Kris Boyd over the month of February, he did pip all of the Premiership’s forwards by adding two assists to his games.
Strikers should undoubtedly be judged on their ability to score goals, but when that doesn’t differentiate them then the ability to create goals for teammates becomes even more vital. And over the course of February this Colombian striker showcased his ability to do both.
Although McLaughlin and Porteous were both instrumental to their respective teams’ throughout February no player best represents the stellar form of their team quite like the free-scoring Windass at Rangers.
After signing a new contract, the 24-year-old looks like he’s playing the best football of his career and at still a relatively young age there’s plenty of time and promise to suggest he could end up becoming an even better player at Ibrox.