“He is simply not fit,” Nicholas on Morelos as Kyogo’s Sharpness is Praised

Ex-Celt Charlie Nicholas, with absolutely no sense of irony attached, has taken issue with Alfredo Morelos fitness after his League Cup Final performance in theRangers 2-1 defeat at Hampden on Sunday.

Nicholas, writing in his Scottish Daily Express column today, believes if Mick Beale keeps Morelos around it could be the hill his ‘Rangers’ managerial career dies on, with Nicholas stating Morelos’ tactical deficiencies and physical condition could ‘choke’ Beale’s managerial future if the rookie boss continues to select his huffy and chubby frontman.

Alfredo Morelos of theRangers celebrates after scoring during the Viaplay Cup Final between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on February 26, 2023 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“The League Cup must surely be Alfredo Morelos’s final stand. I don’t know why Michael Beale has stood by him for so long. Steven Gerrard did the same thing. Time after time and red card after red card.

“Why do they keep playing Morelos? I know he scored at Hampden but the League Cup final defeat exposed his limitations. Look at the difference between the Celtic strikers and Morelos. Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi are both fit, sharp and ready to run themselves into the ground. Morelos, for me, is playing at 75 per cent capacity because he is simply not fit.

Alfredo Morelos of theRangers celebrates after scoring during the Viaplay Cup Final between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on February 26, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“Morelos hardly troubled Celtic’s back two the whole game because he couldn’t run in behind them. He just wants to scrap and fight because he struggles to run away from players. When you are playing at 25 per cent below your capacity then it is seriously damaging, especially in an Old Firm (sic) game.

“If Morelos was to get 90 per cent then he would be up there like he was when (the)Rangers were doing well in the Europa League. He hasn’t hit those heights for some time. Beale, inexplicably, has kept playing him. Goals in cup finals mean nothing unless you win them. Yes, he got on the scoresheet, but other than that his contribution was zero.

“Morelos just doesn’t bring a danger against Celtic – it’s not as if he helps his side with his hold-up play or even takes the pressure off his team-mates. Beale must see how short Morelos is leaving (the)Rangers and that can be the difference in the big games.

“If he continues to stick by the Colombian then it could choke theRangers manager. Antonio Colak might not be better than Morelos but he is certainly fitter than him. Playing Morelos from the start in the cup final while leaving Nicolas Raskin on the bench was a strange decision.”

Michael Beale, Manager of Rangers, reacts during the Viaplay Cup Final between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on February 26, 2023 i. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Charlie Nicholas taking issue with the physical fitness of a striker is somewhat ironic given the timber Nicholas carried in his second spell at Celtic, but that aside, he certainly hits the nail on the head when it comes to the main goal threat of theRangers being somewhat out of shape.

Yesterday on The Celtic Star we compared and contrasted Alfredo Morelos’ performance with that of Kyogo. Morelos who despite scoring a scrappy goal to claw the Ibrox side back into the game, limited theRangers tactical options throughout the match and seemed to care little for any instruction to defend from the front.

Morelos lack of mobility, work rate and speed forced theRangers to play passes forward to feet, without the threat of the pace in behind which Kyogo offers Celtic as a threatening out ball. Meaning Celtic could focus on pushing a high line, safe in the knowledge there was nothing to hurt Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt centrally.

The difference between the two strikers was as stark as the differing qualities of both teams at Hampden on Sunday. Kyogo was constantly moving, and for every run he made where the ball did reach his vicinity, there were several where he wasn’t picked out. Yet there was no huffing and puffing from Kyogo, instead we saw the Japanese striker’s patience rewarded by two superb striker’s goals.

Meanwhile Morelos was substituted just after scoring a scrappy goal to get theRangers back into the game, a manager’s decision he didn’t seem to appreciate, as he doubled his shots on target rate from his time spent on the park when accurately connecting with the water bottles in front of theRangers technical area.

With limited funds in which to operate in the transfer market, it may well be Mick Beale has few options for the time being other than persisting with playing Alfredo Morelos. Yet when the main striker limits his options tactically, there is only so far his team can progress, if Morelos continues to lead the line.

With Celtic having Kyogo as Celtic’s hot hand, and with new signing Oh looking an incredible prospect at just 21 years of age, both Celtic strikers look superior to Alfredo Morelos.

And in a two-team league where tactical flexibility and squad depth can have such a bearing on the outcome of title challenges it’s comforting to know, despite Nicholas’ disappointment in Morelos condition and application, that Morelos, it appears, remains Mickl Beale’s first choice striker.

Because, whilst it may have a limited impact in games against many teams in Scotland, in the Glasgow Derby fixtures in particular, having Morelos to call on rather than the likes of Kyogo, as we saw on Sunday, can be the difference between winning and losing.

Fingers crossed then that the Ibrox club can find the money from somewhere to offer Alfie that new contract.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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