What will Swindon be missing if Nile Ranger leaves town?

Nile Ranger is reported to be back in training with Swindon Town but whatever trials the tattooed target-man brings to Town, his on-pitch ability will be difficult to replace, writes Alex Cooke.

Calm, discipline, hard working: these aren’t words normally associated with striker Nile Ranger. If fact, Google’s autocomplete tells us that the search term ‘Nile Ranger’ is more often followed by: gun, tattoo, trial, wages, rape, Instagram and Twitter.

But now it seems likely that ‘missing’ will eventually join that list. Initially Ranger missed training, recently he was granted further leave to prepare for his trial, and soon, whatever the verdict of the courts, he will miss a number of games for Mark Cooper’s team.

But what will Swindon missing without him? And, what qualities might they need to search for if the former Newcastle United striker doesn’t return?

Nile Ranger is: calm

Whatever has, or will happen, off the pitch, Ranger is remarkably controlled on it; in his 16 games so far for Town he is yet to receive a single a yellow card. And with just 13 league fouls committed to date, he isn’t even in the top 100 League One offenders.

Physical intimidation doesn’t seem to trouble him either. While some defenders, such as Aden Flint, have got the better of him in the air (including scoring the only corner Swindon have conceded from this season) few do so on the ground. If the ball provided to feet, Ranger has the strength and control to hold off even the likes of Chelsea’s Gary Cahill. So much so that once the ball is under his spell he is almost impossible to disposes.

This is somewhat in contrast to his probable replacement Dany N’Guessan, who looks as powerful as Ranger but uses his strength to tussle, rather than shield the ball and seems to give away a greater number of fouls (18). His first touch is also a little more suspect, although this is partly as he is frequently looking to turn his man rather than simple retain the ball.

Nile Ranger is: disciplined

Ranger offers Town a physical focal point, stretching the play and pulling Swindon further up the field – even if Cooper’s recent 4-6-0 formation made a virtue of the team being compressed.

However, it is less that Ranger provides an ‘outlet’ ball for hoofed defensive clearances or a target for crosses (he lacks the mobility for that) he is more a pivot for the attack to rotate on. His goals have come from close range, with only his early strike against Crewe coming directly from a dribble.

In this capacity as a link man, Ranger stays in the narrow corridor which extends from the 18 yard box, coming short to play wall passes to feeding the cutting-in wider forwards, rather than running in behind the defensive line. Which does make it strange that the Football League don’t consider him to have a single assist.

This tendency is reflected in the statistics with Ranger ranking 6th at the club for total shots attempted. This statistic offers little surprise as Ranger is slow to shoot, even when played into good positions, preferring either to pass or seeming so ponderous in setting himself as to be closed down easily. This is certainly not true of Dany N’Guessan who leads Ranger with 21 shots so far and likes to play far more on the shoulder of the defender – a fact reflecting in the frequency of which he is caught offside.

Secondary to Ranger’s attacking qualities are his defensive ones, for it isn’t his height (6’1”) that makes him useful while defending opposition corners, it is also his spring. Ranger is largely used as a man-marker however, he attacks the ball more as if marking zonally, frequently clearing balls aimed towards the back post. Cooper even mentioned using him as an emergency central defender.

Nile Ranger 16 Games Stats

Nile Ranger is: hard working

Ranger’s game isn’t one of boundless enthusiasm, of closing defenders and chasing lost causes. In fact he hardly presses – leaving that to fellow wide forwards Nathan Byrne and Nicky Ajose. However, he has displayed desire and drive in almost every game he played for Swindon, bar the collectively poor display at Macclesfield and against Port Vale, when, despite scoring, he did seemed distracted.

Nile Ranger is: off?

While Ranger isn’t a natural finisher or a creator of chances, he is totemic – at both ends of the field. For someone with his public profile, it is a surprise how his play is functional and complementary rather than flamboyant or cocky. His departure, either to a higher division or to prison, would leave Swindon again searching for a striker.

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What are your views on Nile Ranger, his time so far at Swindon and your reactions to his extended leave?

Speak your brains in the comment field below and we’ll be discussing this topic on this week’s PODCAST which will be available for you to download on Sunday.

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