There’s little doubt that after some promising potential in pre-season friendlies, Nigeria’s Joe Aribo has not quite set the heather alight at Ibrox when it’s come down to the serious business.
His SPL performances, while never awful, have lacked sparkle and perhaps a touch of heart, and his Europa League outings have similarly underwhelmed.
The colossal 22-year old has shown glimpses of his quality, with some excellent interceptions, some clever ball retention, good composure in possession and a penchant for some dominant marauding runs.
Unfortunately he’s not delivered this consistently enough, and Ibrox Noise raised the issue on Saturday, one day before the Old Firm.
We were slightly surprised that the majority agreed with us.
And then of course, while admittedly wildly out of position on the left wing, Aribo struggled badly against Celtic bar one tubthumping tackle on Scott Brown.
And yet, this kid just got called up to Nigeria, was effectively League One’s best player last season, and Premier League sides were in for him after he played a huge role in securing promotion to the Championship, and when Rangers fans watched him in pre-season, he looked quite the unit.
He looked like a hell of a coup.
There are, however, a great number of caveats for his struggles to settle in.
First off, Joe Aribo has played in League One for Charlton his entire senior career. He has never played in front of crowds of the size of Ibrox, the closest being the average of 30K he’d have faced a few times at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.
Secondly, Aribo has never experienced the pressure of must-win. He has never experienced the pressure of genuinely gunning for a league title against a bitter rival like Celtic.
He had also never been in Scotland till he touched down in Glasgow after the pre-season training camp.
In short, this whole thing is a massive, massive culture shock for this lad – bear in mind the best team he’d ever faced in his young career up till a month ago was probably Blackburn Rovers. No European football, so his performance against Marseille was his first non-British opponent of real gravity.
Since then he’s faced Celtic, Legia, Midjyland and Hibs – and the pressure of the Rangers shirt.
What are we saying?
This lad needs a little time. He’s in a completely alien world right now, and the talent he has is undeniably enough to make him a valuable club asset, perhaps the biggest. But it’s evident he hasn’t settled yet, and some players do take longer.
Think to this morning’s piece about Kent – we didn’t see the best of him till October then December, and he had had plenty of experience at other clubs before Rangers.
Simply put, there is hope for Aribo – if played more centrally, and as more of a midfield marauder.
If he still hasn’t delivered by maybe December then yes, perhaps this is one destined not to work out. But given his potential, imagine the frustration if we give up on him now and he ends up a £50M PL player inside a year.
Hopefully Joe Aribo will figure it out.