Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo highlights key quality behind quest for Premiership title

Joe Aribo believes Rangers are proving they have the fortitude to complement their flair in pursuit of the Scottish Premiership title.

Joe Aribo is congratulated by Rangers manager Steven Gerrard at the end of the Ibrox side's 1-0 win at home to Hibs on Boxing Day. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Joe Aribo is congratulated by Rangers manager Steven Gerrard at the end of the Ibrox side's 1-0 win at home to Hibs on Boxing Day. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Nigerian international midfielder lit up proceedings at Ibrox on Boxing Day with his sublime touch and movement in the 1-0 win over Hibernian.

But like the rest of his team-mates, Aribo was also more than willing to engage in the less aesthetically pleasing aspects of the game when Rangers had to dig in and repel Hibs’ admirable efforts to salvage a point in the second half.

Ianis Hagi’s 33rd minute goal proved enough for Steven Gerrard’s squad to notch up a 12th consecutive Premiership victory and keep them 16 points clear of Celtic at the top of the table, having played three games more than the reigning champions.

Aribo feels Saturday’s match was the type in which Rangers may have dropped points in the previous two seasons.

“That is 100 per cent the kind of game we might have slipped up in before,” he said. “We know we need to go out there and stand up together.

“We need to be there for each other because we know it’s not always going to be easy, so we have just got to win our games.

“We can’t let other teams get momentum and have us penned in. We need to keep pushing and fighting and make it harder for the opponents to get set and playing. We need to fight as a team and that’s how we’re going to get the best out of each other.

“We are showing that fight and that when we are under the cosh, we can stand up and put our bodies on the line as a team. You are definitely seeing that now.”

Aribo’s season has been disrupted by both injury and illness. He missed 10 games after suffering an ankle injury in August, then was sidelined for another couple of matches by a stomach bug at the end of November.

“It was the longest time I’ve ever been out because of injury in my career so far,” said the 24-year-old former Charlton Athletic player.

“I didn’t know how bad the ankle injury was initially, I thought it was a lot better than it actually was. But after a scan and then another scan, there were just a lot of setbacks before I could play again.

“It’s been stop-start for me but I’m just happy than I’m back in the fold now. I’m raring to go and to keep pushing on.

“I was pretty pleased with my performance against Hibs. What I’ve wanted since I came back into the team is to find my feet and get back to my best. Hopefully, the fans can see that I’ve been doing that.”

Rangers have the opportunity to exert a tighter grip in the title race this week as they face St Mirren in Paisley on Wednesday afternoon before Celtic visit Ibrox next Saturday.

Scott Arfield looks set to join fellow midfielder Ryan Jack on the absentee list after he limped off against Hibs with an ankle injury which is causing concern.

“We know we have a lot of midfielders and we are all as good as each other,” said Aribo. “When someone is injured, we’ve got to step up and just take their place.”

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