There are a few pieces to digest from today’s ultimately comfortable win over a fairly plucky Hamilton, and we’ll get to that in due course, but one big tell was the best performance in a Rangers shirt of Joe Aribo.
It was an interesting afternoon, both tactically and technically, and we were interested to see what formation we’d use – and it started out as a clear 4-3-3 with Hagi wide right and Kent wide left, with Aribo at the apex of midfield.
And you know what? This was the first time Aribo has looked the part playing in his supposedly strongest position.
He’s played there before, to no avail, and looked slow, lethargic and off the pace of the hectic Scottish game.
But today, up against a stodgy Hamilton who sure pushed Celtic last week, Aribo was a far superior specimen, and we have to put it down to one thing:
With Hagi’s intelligent movement on the right, Aribo didn’t suffer having to always hold the ball, or track back, or put a ball into the box even if no one was there – no, with Hagi wide right, albeit a bit wasted out there, it gave the Nigerian international an intelligent runner to support both wide and later on in the match, ahead of him – an out, as it were.
It means Aribo could trust his own skill in possession (and few would deny his close control is remarkable) while also trusting that he’d have somewhere to lay it off – Hagi rooted out wide then roaming centrally gave Aribo, along with the overlapping Tavernier, a total release valve, and he looked a completely different player.
It’s the first time we’ve seen real creativity from him in that position, and thanks to having two reliable runners ahead and to the right, Aribo was able to play in a way we’ve not seen from him before.
Aribo’s attributes are strong possession, goals, and neat vision – but he’s been made to look poor lately because the RW position stopped working for him and the previous 10 slot wasn’t well thought-out.
Gerrard tried to make him more central, but with such static movement around him, he was struggling.
Now we see Aribo in his natural position, and for the first time this season he’s actually looking the player we signed. Properly.
Suddenly Rangers have gone from having no useful number 10s to having two of them.