2022/23 Season Preview: Joe Aribo
New season, new league, new club; how will 2022/23 pan out for Joe Aribo at Southampton?
Review of 2021/22
Joe Aribo’s 2021/22 season was a successful one in the grand scheme, even though it ended in disappointment both at home and in Europe.
Rangers’ run to the final of the Europa League was not rewarded with silverware at the end of the day despite the efforts of their Nigerian midfielder, who scored on that balmy night in Seville against Eintracht Frankfurt. Similarly, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s charges came up just short in league play, ceding the title to city rivals Celtic.
Aribo was an ever-present for the Gers in all competitions, scoring nine goals and assisting 10 in all competitions.
State of play
On the back of his performances for Rangers, Premier League side Southampton snapped Aribo up for a modest fee this summer. The 26-year-old has already set about making an impact, most notably with his slaloming run and finish against Villarreal in a preseason friendly.
In general, the Saints look to have done respectable business in the transfer market, and could be set for a quietly impressive campaign in 2022/23, especially if the likes of Sekou Mara and Gavin Bazunu settle in quickly.
Big question: Is it too good to be true?
Whisper it quietly, but this is possibly the most exciting and intriguing Nigerian transfer this summer. Aribo is coming into a system that fits his positional preferences perfectly: the Saints’ 4-2-2-2 accommodates two narrow no.10s, and it is expected Aribo will start on the right of that attacking midfield band. He has already given a heady glimpse of what he is capable of.
The only real question is one born of paranoia: what if something goes wrong? It all seems too good to be true otherwise; without any injuries or unforeseen circumstances, it is difficult to envisage Aribo not endearing himself to the St Mary’s faithful.
What can he improve?
There is a concern over the accuracy of his shooting that is worth highlighting, especially compared to players who operate primarily in the final third, but the greater issue is probably his touch and ability to receive in tight spaces.
Oddly enough for such a good dribbler, Aribo is a player who needs space in which to work. One of the features of the Southampton system is that passes will be fired at him through the lines to receive on the half-turn with some regularity. He will need to make those passes stick a lot more than he currently does.
What would constitute a good season?
Southampton do not typically have designs on Europe, often switching off once safety is confirmed. As such, there is little point to expecting much more.
However, on a personal level, Aribo should look to prove himself capable of operating at Premier League level. He will presumably no longer be shunted all over the pitch on the grounds of versatility, and so he should target a respectable goals return.
Appearances: >30 starts (all competitions)
Goals: >5 (all competitions)
Assists: 8 (all competitions)