At Joe Aribo’s unveiling, he revealed his earliest chats with Southampton manager, Ralph Hassenhuttl over where he will like to play best.
Aribo in the chat made his best position known and understood what the manager demanded of him. It was clear and straightforward but for a player of his versatility, a manager will always be open to new suggestions.
There are not so many footballers in the world who can play varieties of positions as good as Aribo can. At Rangers, he showed how reliable he could be in applying himself in various setups.
Giovani Van Bronckhorst found use for him in the forward role where he led the attack in the semifinal and final of the Europa League and scored in the latter to reward that choice.
While he didn’t grow in a foremost football academy, Aribo’s skillset is impressive and his knowledge of the game is on a respectable level and it’s why he’s able to impress in different positions.
Last season for Rangers, he played in every position in the midfield in different systems and was used across the three forward roles also. Although versatility is a credible and rare quality in football, it doesn’t help specialisation. For different reasons and under varying circumstances, this can be positive or negative.
Aribo showed he could stand his own under different systems at Rangers but the Premier League asks more difficult questions. The pace of the league means application has to be good at all times to be on a good level of performance. So far, the Super Eagles star hasn’t been out of place but there’s still a lot to do in terms of wholesome performances.
Hassenhuttl is known to be a manager who deploys players in the most strange manners. Seeing Moussa Djenepo in the left full-back position in a back four fully expresses the state of mind of the Austrian. Aribo, although on familiar terms, is also a player he has deployed in various positions in just four league games.
Against Tottenham, the Nigerian played in his favoured position on the right, just behind the main forward. In other games he started as a right winger. The former Charlton man played just behind the attacker in the loss to Southampton and this, although is beneficial, can also threaten his progress.
The best footballers in the world are known to have recognisable strengths in certain positions. While Aribo has shown he can score goals when the opportunity presents itself as he showed with his composed finish against Leeds United, it is also important that his best position is quickly identified.
His start to life with the Saints offers hope and the Premier League can coldly welcome. He’s also in a team that battles the drop and thinks more about survival than consolidating on their strength.
It’s also a young team that will learn with struggles and experimentation may not end anytime soon, but finding Aribo’s best position involves a patient understanding of his core strengths.
“He [Hasenhuttl] asked me where I prefer to play most. I told him just behind the striker in a right-forward position,” Aribo told the club’s website after his unveiling.
“He said it’s really good that I said that to him and not another position, so we have had a lot of chats about it. It’s a nice feeling to know that the manager has high hopes for you.”
Many fans may have other suggestions of where he’s best seen, but where he says he finds his onion may be where the spice is, and history will agree with him.