Steven Gerrard believes Alfredo Morelos is ready to prove form is temporary while class is permanent as he backed the Colombian to shrug off his goal drought.
Morelos has not registered a league strike since September and has now gone six games in all competitions without finding the net.
The 24-year-old again cut a frustrated figure as he was replaced during Sunday’s 2-1 win over Dundee United having missed a glorious chance to end his dry spell.
But Morelos has his manager’s full backing, with Gerrard praising last season’s top scorer for continuing to do his shift for the team even while his shooting sights are off.
“Listen, we want to rely on Alfredo all the time,” said the Ibrox boss. “That’s his job. Alfredo has to handle that pressure. I have to handle that pressure, we all do. We’re all representing Rangers.
“It’s quite normal for players to have dips in confidence or form. But what you do know is that it’s only temporary and we know he’ll bounce back. It won’t be too long before he’s scoring lots of goals and smiling even more than he is now.
“But I think one important thing to mention is that he’s still doing a fantastic job for the team in terms of his hold-up play and the messages we’re giving him, what he needs to do in and out of possession.
“So just because people on the outside don’t see the goals raining in, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have the same feelings towards Alfredo.
“We’ve been really proud of what he’s given this season. He’s got a lot more team-mates who are capable of helping him in terms of the volume of goals that the team needs.
“We’ll do everything we can to support him and get him back to where we all need him.”
Morelos hit 26 goals by this point last season but so far this term he has only seven.
But Gerrard said: “We don’t just analyse the goal return. We analyse how is Alfredo looking from a fitness point of view? What’s his application like in training? Does he deserve to start? What’s his hold-up play like?
“Is he doing the job for the team? is he counter-pressing? What’s his movement like? How is he around the place?
“We analyse lots and lots of different areas before we make a decision on whether he should be in the team.
“I don’t think it’s fair to only judge a player on goal return. There’s a lot more to it than that.”
Morelos could yet be a key man if Gers are to overcome St Mirren in Paisley on Wednesday and reach the Betfred Cup semi-finals – but Ryan Jack is set to again be absent for the clash with Jim Goodwin’s Buddies.
It’s almost a month since the midfielder last played against former club Aberdeen despite the Ibrox boss initially declaring his knee injury would only keep him out a few days.
But Gerrard is hopeful the Scotland ace will be back soon. He said: “It’s moving along but a lot slower than we’d like.
“He hasn’t suffered a set-back as such but maybe the original injury we got was maybe underplayed. The injury was maybe a little bit more serious from the beginning.
“We’ve tried to push him and get him back but you get signs and moments in your rehab where you’ve just got to come off and go a little slower.
“I don’t think it will be too long before he returns but when you love Ryan Jack as much as I do then you want him back as soon as possible, so it does feel like it’s been a bit of a slow one.”
Rangers learned on Monday they will face Royal Antwerp in the last 32 of the Europa League when the competition resumes in February.
The Belgians beat Spurs on their way to qualifying for the knock-out rounds but have had a tough domestic campaign, sitting a lowly seventh alongside Standard Liege – who Gerrard’s team beat twice as they topped their own group.
And the Light Blues boss said: “I think they’re in a false position in the league from the early bits I’ve watched.
“I had a quick hour on them last night just to get a flavour of what they’re about. I predict they will finish high up in the Belgian league as they’re a good team.
“So it’s going to be a fascinating tie over the two legs. It’s good the second leg is at Ibrox and when it comes around we’ll make sure the team is ready – but we’ll have to be at our best to reach the last 16.”
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.