Joe Aribo: The Scintillating Ibrox Playmaker
After spells at Staines Town and Charlton Athletic, Joseph Oluwaseyi Temitope Ayodele-Aribo, fondly known as “Joe Boy” amongst Nigerian supporters and professionally known as Joe Aribo, is emerging as a crucial cog for club and country at 25 years of age.
The London-born midfielder played a vital role in helping Rangers secure the Scottish Premiership last season, where they finished the 38-match campaign unbeaten under the guidance of manager Steven Gerrard, ending Celtic’s run of nine league titles in a row.
Aribo featured 25 times in the league, scoring 6 goals and providing 4 assists in what was his second year at the Glasgow club. His performances this season have even been more impressive for the club, having registered the same number of goals and assists he had last season in just after 20 matches.
Aribo has started in 19 of those matches and came in as a substitute only once. Rangers currently top the league with 52 points, four points more second-place Celtic after 21 matches played.
New Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst will be hoping to maintain the side’s lead atop the table whilst Aribo is away at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Style of Play
Joe Aribo is a versatile player who can fit in numerous positions in the midfield. He can be played in a central midfield role or in an attacking midfield position, although he can also play wide on the right, either as a right winger (RW) in a 4-4-2 formation or as an inverted right wing forward (RWF) in a 3-man attack.
He has played mostly as an attacking midfielder for Rangers this season and has enjoyed the most success in that position. He is a regular for the Super Eagles and plays in a midfield two alongside Wilfred Ndidi, who is the holding midfielder of the two.
Nigeria’s opening two matches of AFCON saw Samuel Chukwueze and Moses Simon occupy both flanks, with Taiwo Awoniyi and Kelechi Iheanacho starting up top. In this role, Aribo is given more freedom to go on the offensive but is still expected to put in some defensive shift as the occasion demands.
Where Aribo has played for Rangers this season [Transfermarkt]
Aribo is a left-footed midfielder who likes to dribble and often looks for forward progressive passes to the attackers. He likes to play short and neat passes, he keeps things simple, does not attempt many fancy long balls, and hardly turns possession over.
He loves to cut in on his favorite foot when deployed on the right side of the midfield to take a shot towards goal or find a teammate with a pass. He is also an effective tackler and contributes a whole lot defensively. However, there is room for improvement on his crossing ability and holding off the opponent on the ball.
The 25-year-old started the first two games of the group stages at the AFCON, which saw Nigeria win both and seal their passage into the knockout round with wins against Egypt and Sudan. As such, interim manager Augustine Eguavoen elected to rest him in the final group stage match against Guinea-Bissau, with Kelechi Nwakali starting in his place.
Aribo dons the popular “number 10” jersey for the national team, a jersey number that always generates high expectations amongst Nigerians. The Super Eagles faithful have been waiting for the next Jay-Jay Okocha since his retirement, but they haven’t found anyone who occupied his position and brought as much joy as the former PSG playmaker.
Of course, Joe Boy is no Jay-Jay, but he is certainly contributing his fair share of the work as Nigeria hunt for its fourth AFCON title. Despite missing several key attackers such as Emmanuel Dennis and Victor Osimhen, Nigeria are the sole team that has won every single match thus far at AFCON.
After resting against Guinea-Bissau, Aribo is expected to play a starting role for Nigeria in their Round of 16 fixture against Tunisia, who lost to Gambia and Mali but nevertheless managed to qualify on account of their 4-0 drubbing of Mauritania.
Despite their third-place finish in Group F, the Eagles of Carthage are no slouch and boast a squad featuring the likes of Wahbi Khazri, Ellyes Skhiri and Hannibal Mejbri. If Nigeria are to qualify for the quarterfinals, they’ll be needing a big performance from Aribo.
Aribo has gone from strength to strength since leaving Charlton Athletic on a free transfer and joining Rangers in 2019, and with his contract set to expire in 2023, he could be set for a new chapter. It seems a matter of time before Aribo follows in the footsteps of his teammates Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, and William Troost-Ekong, and embarks on a Premier League journey.
By: Kayode Dave Ogunbameru / @DaveOgunbameru
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Mark Runnacles / Getty Images