As the transfer rumour mill continued in its frantic fashion this summer, Joe Aribo was on the radar of many clubs in Britain. These names included the likes of North London giants Arsenal and newly promoted Aston Villa. However, the blue side of Glasgow managed to lure him to Ibrox as the Gers chase a 55th Scottish Premiership title. But why was this such an important signing?
Windass, Dorrans, Pena and Kranjcar are part of a long list of attacking midfielders, that never lived up to their billing at Rangers. The introduction of Scott Arfield from Burnley last season was a sign of a new dawn in the creative department. But, to rely on the Canadian international to deliver that spark every week without another concrete ‘number 10’ was unrealistic. Whilst the firepower was an ever-present from the flanks and the top of the pitch, that extra bit of energy was absent too often in central areas.
This is where the addition of the former Charlton midfielder will shine the brightest. Last year, Rangers fans know all too well that the team failed on numerous occasions to break through teams that put 11 men behind the ball. Draws against Dundee and St Johnstone is damning evidence of this reoccurring issue.
As the image above suggests, Aribo thrives in areas on the edge of the opposition box where he can create, score and keep things ticking in the attacking department. An area where the Gers struggled to effect games, especially when chasing a goal to earn one or three points.
The heat map implies Charlton utilised him on the left side of a diamond in the most recent campaign, but his ability to express his talent in all midfield positions makes him a lucrative attacking option for Gerrard. With his darting runs from midfield and deceptive movement, Aribo has drawn comparisons to Premier League legend Yaya Toure with his physique and pace being key comparable attributes. Tallying ten goals from 30 shots in 39 appearances last season is proof of his eye for the net and willingness to contribute in the goals department.
Aribo brags the versatility to play in a midfield three, a diamond or adapt and play as a wide man in a front three. With the number 17 carrying the ability to play in all of these areas, Gerrard has the manoeuvrability in his side to rotate the other midfielders that are more defensive. Players like Jack, Kamara and Docherty can provide a perfect pivot and base for the offensive Davis, Arfield and Aribo.
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The Rangers new boy also completed 2.89 tackles per game on average in last year's successful promotion campaign. Although his main qualities will be shown in the final third, he is also extremely capable of offering a defensive influence. At the young age of 23, he still has time to develop into a better player, but it is undeniable that Aribo offers something Rangers have been severely lacking.
Steven Davis’ experience and constant ability will both be remarkably helpful in growing Aribo’s game in Scotland. Not to mention, his manager is one of the best central midfielders to play the game. There is no doubt he is in the right place to fulfil his potential. Despite Lee Bowyer’s negative comments about the move to Rangers, Aribo will be adored by the fans if he can develop the glimpses of talent that have been on show, including his classy display in the 6-1 Hibs victory. These comments made by his former coach have already suggested irony. The former Ithsmian League player earned his first Nigerian international call-up for the up and coming friendly against Ukraine, with Premier League players Wilfred Ndidi and Alex Iwobi headlining the African outfit.
Although early signs show Arfield starting games in a wider position it will be interesting to see how Steven Gerrard makes the most of having Aribo and Arfield throughout the season’s course, having both in the squad will certainly provide a cutting edge from the middle of the park Ibrox has been desperate for. This could be the difference in winning trophies and not. The inability last season to break down well disciplined sides was a major problem. We have seen what Aribo can do in the Europa qualifiers, but it is of paramount importance for Joe to show his class domestically.
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