Joe Aribo of Rangers. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images,)
In a team brimming with attacking talent, Rangers’ Joe Aribo sometimes flies under the radar a little.
He may not boast the trickery of a Ryan Kent or the mercurial flair of an Ianis Hagi, but the Nigeria international has slowly and surely carved out a integral role for himself in Steven Gerrard’s plans at Ibrox.
Sometimes versatility in football can feel like a bit of a double-edged sword. While it’s never a wholly negative attribute, it can sometimes feel as if the ability to play in a few different positions robs some players of a certain amount of necessity. As the old adage goes, jack of all trades, master of none.
But in Aribo’s case, his flexibility is a real boon. So far this season we’ve seen him play out on the right flank and in an advanced midfield role, and it was the latter in which he thrived again on Sunday afternoon.
With Celtic sticking six past St. Mirren on Saturday afternoon 24 hours earlier, the pressure was on the Gers to fire back against Ross County. This is where the Old Firm is at right now, two Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots swinging in turn, waiting for the other to lose their heads.
Granted, Gerrard’s men might not have looked quite as imperious as their hooped neighbours, but a 4-2 away win was enough to keep their cautious revival on track after that recent three-game wobble.
And the man who lit the fuse on that victory was, of course, Joe Aribo.
The midfielder’s strike after a quarter of an hour didn’t just get things up and running, it did so in emphatic style.
In many ways, his goal was a monument to his game as a whole - the hustle and bustle of the run into the box, the grit to retain possession as his defender closed in on him, the composure, skill, and audacity to then curl his effort into the far post, leaving Ross Laidlaw grasping and helpless.
You’ll struggle to find a more aesthetically pleasing goal scored this weekend, but at the moment, Rangers won’t be too bothered about winning any beauty contests.
The recovery process from that recent hiccup was never going to be instantaneous, and there have been matches since in which the Gers have looked patchy.
But moments like Aribo’s strike, and his contribution to Sunday’s performance writ large, will go a long way towards reapplying some of the Premiership-winning varnish that got peeled off a couple of weeks ago.
It’s something we’re seeing a lot on the other side of Glasgow right now. Dominant, goosebump-inducing wins are still only worth three points, but the added boost in perception that they bring with them can go a long way psychologically.
Equally, Aribo’s goal would have been worth the same had it gone in off his backside from a yard out, but that little moment of magic acted as just enough of a reminder that there is irrepressible quality in Rangers’ ranks, and that they can yield it at the drop of a hat.
Ross County learned that the hard way on Sunday, and the Gers will be desperate to teach Celtic the same lesson in next weekend’s Old Firm.