Steven Gerrard will be counting his lucky stars with the wealth of midfield options he has available at his disposal at the moment. Glasgow Rangers restored their nine-point lead over their arch-rivals Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership as they humiliated Hamilton Academical at home on Sunday afternoon.
Gerrard’s side put the Accies to the sword with an eight-goal win at Ibrox after Joe Aribo, Kemar Roofe and James Tavernier scored braces, whilst Scott Arfield and Brandon Barker were also on target.
The Ibrox boss is pretty spoilt for choice as summer signing Bongani Zungu made his first-team debut as a substitute in the second half, whilst Steven Davis enjoyed a well-deserved rest and Glen Kamara remained on the bench.
Aribo has been in such fine form for Rangers in recent weeks as he marked his return to the first team with a dominant display against Livingston after recovering from injury. Whilst the Light Blues dominated proceedings from start to finish, he was clearly one of the star performers.
The 4-cap Nigeria international was a constant threat throughout the game, as he scored his first goal of the game to complete a three-goal flurry in three minutes in the first half, before he doubled his efforts with another deflected shot to put the game beyond the Accies.
Speaking after the game, Gerrard said: “I have been on to these players, probably on to them too much, about keeping standards no matter what stage the game is at. It pleased me at half-time that we carried on looking to score goals and win even more emphatically.
“It has been coming, we have threatened to do that. But the pleasing thing today was that we were very clinical. We suffocated Hamilton from start to finish, we stayed on them and never took our foot off the gas and you could see the quality throughout the squad.
“Look, we are not at the stage yet where we can play with ego in any game or at any stage. We are trying to become a winning team, a successful team. We are in no position to disrespect any opponent or any team. It is about Rangers trying to be as strong for as long as we can and be as consistent as we can.”
Per SofaScore, the 24-year-old received a high statistical rating of 9 for his performance, which was the third highest behind Tavernier and Roofe – he completed 39 out of 46 passes (85%), took two shots on target, won eight out of his twelve duels in total, and created one key pass, whilst he made four tackles as well. A look at his heatmap shows a hub of activity on the left flank, particularly in the final third, which shows that he was a potent attacking threat throughout the game.
Aribo was recently described as an “exceptional” powerhouse by Charlton boss Lee Bowyer, on talkSPORT, as quoted by The Daily Record, and has now scored four goals in ten games so far this season, via Transfermarkt. In comparison, even Ianis Hagi has only scored once in 16 games, despite the fact he has made more starts.
In fact, it’s fair to say that the versatile player is quickly becoming undroppable, which is perhaps why he has started the past three games in a row in all competitions. The attacking midfielder has played more centrally in the past, whilst he has been also deployed on the wing in recent weeks. He could even emulate the efforts of former Rangers skipper Barry Ferguson, who was named Scotland’s Players’ Player of the Year in the 2002/03 Scottish Premiership season, having scored 18 goals from the midfield.
The Ibrox boss will be will no doubt be hoping he sees similar performances from Aribo down the stretch, and will surely consider starting him again when Rangers face Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership after the international break.