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Mexican Carlos Pena has perhaps been the surprise package in the much-changed Rangers line-up this season and given the way he is settling in, he could prove to be absolutely vital for the club as this seasons wears on.
Originally expected to challenge the likes of Graham Dorrans and Ryan Jack for a place in the middle of the park, where he has played most of his career, Pena has been pushed forward by Gers boss Pedro Caixinha and the effect has been hugely positive for both the player and the club.
So far, Pena has netted 4 goals in 8 games in all competitions and this from a player, like many at the club, who did not settle in immediately and has trouble at first finding his best form. There is better to come from the man from Ciudad Victoria, his 2 goals at St Johnstone recently underlining his newfound importance to this team.
Having found a scoring touch but never losing his battling midfield instinct, Pena has allowed Caixinha to find in effect, his own Steven Gerrard.
During Liverpool’s best period in recent memory, Liverpool had a prolific striker (Fernando Torres) who wanted the space up front all to himself. As luck would have it, they had a very fit and very versatile player in Gerrard who could drop back and be an extra midfelder when the need arose but who also bombed forward into the no.10 position and added vital goals to the side.
In this instance; for Torres read Alfredo Morelos (8 goals in 11 domestic games) and for Gerrard read Pena. Remember, everything is relative so while Pena is no Gerrard on a level playing field, in the context of this Rangers side and the league in which he is plying his trade, then he has a very similar effect.
The fact that both players can and will only get better as this season draws on means Rangers can look forward to some very good times in relative terms, with domestic cups now very much on the table as a realistic possibility.
Winning one or more of those takes away Celtic’s domination and means there are tangible inroads being made into the gap which currently exists between the two Old Firm sides.
We can never underestimate how much difference a couple of players can make to a club’s fortunes, just like Rafa Benitez didn’t with Torres and Gerrard. So, as this partnership develops, it will be interesting to see what impact it has on this division.