On Tuesday, Dujon Sterling became Michael Beale’s second summer signing, agreeing a pre-contract to join the club on July 1 from Chelsea.

The 23-year-old has been with the London outfit since he was 8, making his debut as a 17-year-old before spending time on loan at Coventry, Blackpool, Stoke and Wigan.

"I wasn't really making my mind up about my future this quick. But the gaffer came in before the season ended and what he proposed to me was everything I need and want to do, we are on the same wavelength,” he told RangersTV.

“I had a lot of clubs in for me as I was going into free agency as well. But I knew straight away after he gave me his proposal, what he wants to do, and as soon as I left the meeting, I said I was signing here.”

“He is a very powerful and strong defender, who has fantastic attacking qualities and I look forward to working with him at Rangers," was Beale's verdict.

So what type of player is Sterling and how does he fit into Beale’s Rangers?

A promising profile

A relatively two-footed, versatile defender who spent much of his youth career playing higher up the wing, Sterling fits Beale's desired quota of hybrid players. Although more comfortable striking and passing the ball with his right, his left foot is also strong. With a dominant physical profile, Sterling's impressive technique carrying the ball compliments his traits out of possession. 

Asked what fans should expect in his first interview with the club channel, the new signing replied: “I’m a hard tackler and like to be in battles and get forward when necessary but make sure the first part of my job is defending properly, when I get let loose off leash I can be a threat but I always want to do my job first.”

Last season at Stoke, where the research for this analysis predominantly took place, Sterling played on both flanks as a full-back and wing-back, even turning out at right centre-back on occasion.

Analysis of Sterling’s defensive activity map from last season demonstrates his comfort defending high up the pitch – this is a key detail to remember when considering his position at Ibrox.

Dominant in duels

Let’s start with what stands out, Sterling’s defensive work. He boasts a physical profile that the Rangers backline doesn’t currently have and is rarely beaten for strength, meaning he’s comfortable when forwards look to back in and pin or seek to isolate him out wide.

With notable acceleration and top-speed pace, Sterling can recover situations or step up and intercept the ball in midfield.

Meaning even when he’s facing a winger who’s chest-forward and in an advantageous position, there's normally scope for him to catch up.

Compare the body position of Bristol City’s No.9 here to Sterling. Still, the defender reaches the third-man combination pass first. He defends one-two's on the wing well thanks to his pace and anticipation. 

When, inevitably, he is at times beaten Sterling can still regain the ball before it's released, aided by a low centre of gravity and powerful burst of pace.

What makes these defensive duels out wide in settled periods of possession stand out, as will be elaborated upon, is his two-footed ability.

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Two-footed benefits

The 23-year-old’s pace enables him to match most of the wingers faced down the line, while his comfort tackling with his left or right always protects against an opponent skipping inside. Although preferring to slide tackle on his right, Sterling’s defensive strength on the left is a big positive too.

This is what makes him truly versatile. Because surely, in the same way players are normally more comfortable on their dominant foot, that applies to defensive work too.

Take this example. Defending high up the pitch as the ball turns over, Sterling has to protect the central highlighted route as Blackburn's No.19, Ryan Hedges, races forward.

However, instead of having to turn his body and intercept with his right as Hedges moves wide, Sterling is comfortable defending on his left side.

Watching footage of his defensive duels, this is a constant theme.

It’s a minor detail that ensures Sterling doesn’t have to rotate his whole body to tackle on his favoured foot, thus granting the opponent a moment of opportunity. Demonstrating why he's comfortable defending on either flank.

Blindside interceptions and high defending  

Another tendency that’s apparent in Sterling’s game is the way he intercepts using the blindside of opponents. Enabled by his speed over the first few yards, the young defender can lull opponents into a false sense of security and then quickly pounce.

Similarly, Nico Raskin’s frame and physique allows him to make these type of ‘sprinting interceptions’ – as the Rangers Review highlighted when scouting the Belgian in January.

It's common to see Sterling, after a turnover, steam into a tackle while his marker thinks times on his side.

The defender is intelligent in the way he attacks his man to intercept, often curving his run in the blindside before stealing possession.

Another attribute, which could be absolutely key at Ibrox when refined, is Sterling’s ability to defend in these types of zones. Isolated high up the park, whether to keep an opponent pinned in or allow his side to press high up the pitch and cover ground.

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Whether it be in Europe, Old Firm matches or simply up against deep-lying opponents, the structure Rangers take off the ball to inform their attack is imperative. 

Sterling’s comfortable matching up opponents when dragged into the midfield, knowing few can outmanoeuvre him one-against-one with his mobility and power to match intelligent duelling. 

What about on the ball?

Last season Stoke averaged 52 percent possession in the Championship, compared to Rangers' 65 percent. Regardless of whether they’re a centre-forward or centre-back, players arriving at Ibrox must be able to contribute in possession.

So, what of the on-ball qualities Sterling possesses? He's a strong runner who can move like a winger to drive past opponents, even if his final ball requires work. Again, it's his flexibility on the ball that stands out.

Increasingly, teams try to trap opponents by the touchline in their press with Beale being a coach who often favours this method.

Sterling’s two-footedness allows him the tools to be press-resistant in the build. Capable of using either side to play inside the pitch.

Here, when pressed by two men trying to trap him on his right side, leaving the highlighted space free, Sterling's able to quickly evade pressure and step inside. Again, it's a small but important detail when playing by the flank.

In this example, operating at left wing-back, Sterling can shift to his left side and reverse it into the six-yard box. This isn't the type of motion your average right-back can make.

This simply opens up more possibilities for him and his team on the ball, in all phases of the game. 

Where does he fit?

In the short term, Sterling likely isn’t coming into take the place of James Tavernier, even if he can provide the captain with cover and competition. 

Alongside providing versatile cover Sterling does fit in a back three, a shape Rangers have regularly trialled under Beale. 

In John Souttar, Connor Goldson and John Lundstram, Beale already has three players capable of progression by way of passing from right centre-back. Sterling provides new solutions.

His hybrid profile is important because it ensures he'll be comfortable in different zones of the pitch, whether running beyond onto a long ball or carrying possession out from the back.

Last season Sterling could often be seen making these half-space runs to create space for others or attack vacant space in a back four. Capable of starting at right centre-back, releasing the ball and making an underlapping run to end up at the tip of the triangle.

Rangers Review:

If Rangers start with high wing-backs and a back three, Sterling affords them greater variation with these forward runs.

Capable of motoring down the outside with power or carrying the ball infield, matched up with his outstanding qualities against the ball, Sterling offers Rangers possibilities and fits Beale's philosophy. That being a team of hybrid players, as capable of stopping attacks as they are starting them. Comfortable making runs on the outside or on the inside and crucially, outplaying their opponents one against one.

It's a deal that makes perfect sense on the surface of things and lines up with what Beale's building at Ibrox.