As we described in this morning’s ratings piece, Joe Aribo has been quite a divisive player since he arrived in Govan from Charlton.
Hyped to a colossal degree as being a bargain, and taking advantage of the cross-border FIFA rules to get him at a tiny fraction of what a fellow English team would have to pay, Aribo came with a massive reputation as being one of the main reasons Charlton succeeded in their promotion drive.
The huge midfield giant was packaged as a powerful, energetic player, a driving force, and very much a box-to-box player who could help push the midfield up and create plays.
But, as time has turned out and the year moves fast into November, while the-now Nigeria international has been delivering for his country, he’s evidently not had the same impact in the light blue, and some supporters have become restless over his contribution.
Let’s be honest – Aribo has shown plenty of individual moments of quality. Some of his close control, strength, ball-winning and composure has been excellent, and there is no denying the lad has talent. And a lot of it.
But there are a couple of nuggets to digest on before assessing what we think of the player as we approach Christmas.
First of all, Rangers already had this player in our ranks, a player in the same position, doing it for a weaker team than Charlton in the same division and with slightly higher stats at that. Greg Docherty, on seeing Aribo being signed this summer just like Coulibaly and Ejaria were last pretty much knew his Rangers game was up. Steven Gerrard just wasn’t interested, but none of the three players he’s brought in have come close to vindicating his choices. So that’s on the manager.
Secondly, Aribo has confirmed directly that his best position is attacking midfield – that he likes to drive at the box and create chances. From the horse’s mouth, that’s his slot. Yet he’s not really looked like that’s where he’s playing under the manager.
Looking at 5 minutes on Sunday, and it’s evident that he’s playing deeper midfield.
We go forward another 5 and he’s still there. Even further back in fact.
Deep into the second half and he’s still withdrawn.
This shows us his position on the pitch, both in attack and in defence – and it’s not where Aribo, a bit like Kamara, likes to play. Instead Scott Arfield is in that slot, in Ryan Jack’s absence, and it’s more than a touch puzzling that the Nigeria international doesn’t get to play his preferred slot even when the number one choice for that position isn’t playing.
What’s the moral of the story? Not unlike those ‘blaming’ Steven Gerrard for James Tavernier’s poor form, the manager is also the one selecting Aribo in a position that isn’t his best.
He also shunted him out wide left for the Old Firm, which to this day no one has ever understood.
While Aribo hasn’t shone at Ibrox like we’d hoped, he also hasn’t been helped by the position he’s been playing in.