Breaking rules and being spiteful - the Rangers midfielder reaping rewards of Steven Gerrard advice

Having picked up five bookings already this season, it could be suggested that Joe Aribo is taking Steven Gerrard’s advice to ‘flex his muscles’ too literally.

Rangers were denied a strong penalty claim when Joe Aribo went down in the box under this challenge from Brondby defender Sigurd Rosted at Ibrox. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

But performances like the one the Nigerian international midfielder delivered in Rangers’ 2-0 Europa League win over Brondby illustrate that he knows exactly what his manager wants from him as he develops a clearly outstanding talent.

By adding physicality and controlled aggression to his sublime technical attributes, Aribo has the potential to enjoy a truly stellar career.

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The 25-year-old is grateful to Gerrard for both the guidance he provides and the licence he has given him not to be restricted by tactical norms on the pitch.

Joe Aribo's driving forward runs were a regular feature of Rangers' 2-0 Europa League win over Brondby at Ibrox on Thursday night. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“The one thing the gaffer always says to me is that I’m one of the rule breakers in the team,” said Aribo.

“He tells me to carry the ball up to defences and try to unlock them. It’s quite similar to my role at Charlton.

“I think we get the word aggression wrong. It’s just in terms of me being ruthless and believing in myself, backing myself, more than anything.

“It’s like I’m not thinking too much or I’m not being too safe or too nice on the ball. It’s like being spiteful in my game. That’s what he means by aggression.

“I think shooting and playing forward, trying to play killer passes – that’s what impacts games. Passing sideways doesn’t really affect the game. So many players can do that.

“So it’s just about being spiteful in the final third, being ruthless and taking any chance or opportunity that you can get.”

Aribo was central to a crucial victory for Rangers as they put their first points on the board in Group A of the Europa League and maintained their hopes of reaching the knockout phase of the tournament for a fourth year in a row.

“It felt very good,” added Aribo. “We knew how important the result was. We needed it to kick-start our European campaign.

“So we just knew how important it was. It was a really nice feeling being out there. It’s up there with one of our best performances this season. Hopefully we can just keep that going and push on from here.”

Rangers return to their title defence on Sunday with a trip to face St Mirren. After dropping two points at home to Hearts last weekend, they could be knocked off the top of the table for at least a day if the Gorgie men take at least a point against Dundee at Tynecastle on Saturday.

“It’s so important for us to bounce back in the league against St Mirren,” said Aribo. “We know we can’t afford to drop points. We want to win every single game.

“When we drop points it’s a bit frustrating and a bit dampening. We just need to make sure we get it right in the next fixture.

“You can’t dwell on what’s just happened. You’ve got to look forward to the next fixture because that’s just as important as the one that’s just gone. Win or lose on a Thursday, regardless of that, we have to look to the weekend and what’s going to come. You just need to focus really.”

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