Former Rangers player Alex Rae has had his say on Rangers’ Old Firm defeat to Celtic, in an interview with the Daily Record.
The Glasgow-born midfielder spent most of his career in England but enjoyed a brief stint at Ibrox between 2004 and 2006, and now works as a pundit on the Scottish game.
He saw the lacklustre defeat as a ‘reality check’ for Steven Gerrard’s team.
Yet, he was reluctant to outright criticise Joe Aribo, one of the players who bore the brunt of the blame on Sunday.
Former Rangers player Rae sticks up for Aribo
“I felt for Joe Aribo at the weekend because for me he’s one who likes to get it and drive forward but he was receiving the ball with his back to play which is foreign to him,” Rae told the Daily Record.
“He looked a wee bit lost to me with the actual position he was playing, with his back towards goal. That suits the defender…But there’s a realisation he is not that forward player. To be fair, he’s done really well up until then and the saving grace is they’ll realise he’s better playing from behind the ball rather than with his back to goal.”
There’s no doubt that Aribo wasn’t at the races on Sunday. He struggled to make any positive impact on the game and he was rightly pulled up by fans for his half-hearted approach to several 50/50s. When he was hooked on the hour mark, he still looked a little like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
Yet, Rae is right in that there are saving graces for the ex-Charlton man. A significant proportion of the blame has to lie with the manager for deploying him in the wrong position.
Gerrard brought Aribo in as a central midfielder and he’s done extremely well there so far in his short Ibrox career, scoring four times and impressing with his quality in possession.
Yet, when the biggest game of the season came about, in an atmosphere far beyond anything the player has experienced before, Gerrard opted to put him in an alien role which pitted him against the opposition’s most aggressive player, in Scott Brown.
He didn’t even have the easy option of an overlapping full-back to feed. Jon Flanagan’s limitations in attack ensured Aribo was extremely isolated at times.
It was a day to forget for the new signing, but not one to dwell on either for him or the fans. It was a blip in an otherwise extremely positive start to life in Glasgow and as Rae says, it’s made it abundantly clear that Aribo is a proper midfielder, rather than an attacker.