Barry Ferguson has criticised Steven Gerrard’s tinkering for Sunday’s Old Firm clash at Ibrox, in his Daily Record column.
After a perfect start to the league season and having won the last two home derbies, the Gers went into the clash as favourites.
They didn’t play like it though. Gerrard sacrificed a winger for an extra midfielder, and his players failed to press the opposition. They were too passive, poor in possession and failed to create chances in the final third.
Ferguson felt that the changes were unnecessary, questioning both the personnel in midfield and the role given to a new signing.
Rangers midfielder Aribo looked lost during Old Firm
“When I saw the line-up I was surprised to see Glen Kamara included as I liked the look of the side which started on Thursday night against Legia Warsaw,” wrote Ferguson in the Daily Record.
“The three who have been playing most games in the middle of the park, Joe Aribo, Ryan Jack and Steven Davis, have been excellent so it was an eyebrow-raiser to have another holding midfielder in there.
“The formation change saw Aribo out wide on the left and to be honest he looked a bit lost.”
Ferguson is spot on with his claim that Aribo was extremely quiet on Sunday.
The rangy midfielder looked unsure of what to do out on the left and he wasn’t helped by Jon Flanagan’s major limitations. The full-back provided no genuine attacking threat on the flank, so quite often, Celtic defenders were able to double up on the ex-Charlton man.
It was the right call to substitute him for Jordan Jones in the 70th minute, and he looked a little shell-shocked as he headed off.
The 23-year-old wasn’t at the races, but the manager has to take the lion’s share of the blame for that. Aribo has been superb since his arrival in June. He starred throughout the Europa League qualifiers and has started solidly domestically, too.
All of those strong displays have been in a central midfield role. From there, he can use his passing range, help to dictate the tempo and then surge forward when an opportunity presents itself. His assigned positioning on Sunday meant he couldn’t play to any of those strengths.
He was thrown into his Old Firm debut in an unfamiliar role, just to accommodate another midfielder.
It was a strange move from the Gers manager and an experiment we’re unlikely to see tried again anytime soon.