Steven Gerrard’s admission on Friday that he had now permanently switched Joe Aribo up to the advanced 10 position (albeit on the right of the three) due to wanting to give the Nigerian less tactical complications and more freedom to just play has absolutely been vindicated with the best three displays in a row from the former Charlton man.
While he hasn’t quite set the heather blazing just yet, there has been a distinct and substantial improvement from the 23-year old in the faux wing position which did Scott Arfield so well during the split last season.
As Gerrard revealed, that didn’t work this time around, and Aribo was similarly struggling in midfield – the lanky engine room man just wasn’t getting involved enough, and seemed to be weighed down a lot. Now Gerrard’s revelation that this was due to too much tactical detail (during that superbly insightful presser on Friday) is a slight reveal of a mistake on his part, but his solution, while unexpected, is clearly working.
Aribo has looked infinitely more involved, infinitely stronger, and far more comfortable just playing the game, just like Kent on the other side.
Aribo hasn’t been guilty of trying too hard, indeed, he has worked very hard off the ball from the get go, and we never had a bad word to say about his grafting, but his position clearly wasn’t fitting with the team, and he as a player in that slot wasn’t either.
Now we know it was the tactics he was following which just didn’t suit him.
As he told his own national team, he’s just an attacking player who likes to be in the final third linking up and supporting in the box, getting goals as well.
The slot he was in just wasn’t allowing him to do that, and we weren’t seeing anything like the best from the lad.
Last night’s goal was absolutely beautiful – it was part of this new improved Aribo, the one who is now looking far more the part and comfortable with his role.
We recall a conversation with a Charlton fan who berated Gerrard for playing Aribo as a left winger during the Old Firm, hanging him out to dry. We may now see just why he tried that, and while it was the wrong match to make the switch, the principle was certainly onto something.
It’s just taken some time to refine the ideas, tactics and methodology.
We’re not suggesting Aribo is now realising his £20M player potential – he does have that in him, but not yet – he just isn’t worth that kind of money yet. But if he keeps up his current run and shows further development, then the initially bizarre sight of his ample and slightly awkward frame on that right wing will seem less curious, and show him to be a genuine club asset in time.
Keep it up Joe, much much better.