Southampton’s ‘shy’ Joe Aribo accepts important squad challenge

02 Aug 2022 | 08:04 | Football

JOE Aribo admits he has always felt “like the shyer player” at previous clubs but now knows he needs to step up and help drive a young Premier League team forward.

From a humble background in football – no time in an academy but instead straight from weekend league to Charlton Athletic at 18-years-old – Aribo’s path is well charted.

Now 26, he is a Nigerian international with goalscoring experience in Scottish giants Rangers’ first European final since 2008; a cup and league title to his name.

He described his Saints move, costing his new employers an initial £6million further rising with add-ons, as something he has “wanted since a child”.

Aribo announced himself fully to St Mary’s with a 70-yard scorching solo run during the 2-1 pre-season defeat to Villarreal, scoring a second minutes later which was then ruled out.

Daily Echo: Joe Aribo scored his first in a Saints shirt on Saturday (Pic: Matt Temple)Joe Aribo scored his first in a Saints shirt on Saturday (Pic: Matt Temple)

Yet, in the immediate aftermath, the physically imposing and technically impressive Aribo still carries himself with a remarkable timidness.

“I think it was good for the boys, we needed it, it was a good run-out – especially (on Saturday), against good opposition,” he told the Daily Echo, first referencing his new friends.

“We’ve played a lot of good teams and it’s just finding that rhythm, taking on board what the manager’s telling us.

“For me it was really easy to get involved and feel, I’ve already spoken about this, but they’re so welcoming. So I’ve felt at home since I’ve been here, they’ve been so welcoming.”

Aribo broke into a laugh when asked at what point he realised he was going to take on four Villarreal defenders and score a first goal, albeit in pre-season, for his new club.

“I went to pass it for Arma (Adam Armstrong) but the defender kind of read it so I said okay, I need to go for it now,” he joked.

“Luckily I was able to get through and finish it. It’s a massive feeling, I want to get into the rhythm of finding the back of the net. It’s really important for me to do that.

“Hopefully I can keep that going into the season to come now. Football is about moments, that’s what I came here to do, to change games and leave my imprint on the pitch.”

Although himself a new player in the Staplewood Campus group, Aribo immediately climbs to one of the more experienced stars in the entire squad.

There is, of course, the elder statesmen in James Ward-Prowse, Stuart Armstrong, Oriol Romeu, Alex McCarthy and – playing bit-part roles – Willy Caballero and Theo Walcott.

Daily Echo: Both Joe Aribo and James Ward-Prowse can withstand incredible minutes over a season (Pic: Matt Temple)Both Joe Aribo and James Ward-Prowse can withstand incredible minutes over a season (Pic: Matt Temple)

But when it comes to the Premier League matchday XIs, there is every chance Aribo has played more football in his career than up to eight, nine or 10 of his teammates.

“It’s funny because I’ve always felt like the younger player, the shyer player, but now I’ve got to come into my own and step up,” Aribo pondered.

“There’s a lot of young boys and they’re looking at me, I’ve got to help them. It’s important to have experienced players with the young players in the team.

“They’re going to learn from us. They’re like sponges, they’ll learn and improve and it’s important to have that around the building.”

Aribo might have to be something of a sponge himself, with Hasenhuttl already suggesting he sees the versatile midfielder’s future as a forward in his squad.

The former Staines Town man had deputised all across the middle of the park and even in defense throughout his time under Steven Gerrard in Glasgow.

“I’d probably say number 10, behind the striker,” Aribo identified, asked to pick his best position of the bunch.

“I played as a right 10, in that position there I enjoyed playing but I’m happy to do anything for the team.”

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