Home News Joe Aribo, Nigeria’s Long Search For Austin Jay-Jay Okocha’s Replacement?

Joe Aribo, Nigeria’s Long Search For Austin Jay-Jay Okocha’s Replacement?

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It’s 2006. The year when ‘Pirates of the Caribbean (Dead Man’s Chest)’ was the highest-grossing movie. Daniel Powter’s Bad Day was the No 1 song on Billboard’s end of the year charts. Facebook was opened to everyone that was 13 years and above with a valid email address.

That same year was when Super Eagles’ search for a creative midfielder began after Austin Jay Jay Okocha played his last game for the team on February 9 in an AFCON third-place playoff against Senegal.

The former Bolton Wanderers captain played 78 minutes of that win against the Teranga Lions before he was taken off, and at that moment Nigeria’s search for creativity began.

Football is a collective sport, but it is hilarious how the departure of one player could affect a team for this long. Until Klopp arrived, Liverpool felt it with Suarez when he left in 2014. Barcelona always struggle in the games without Lionel Messi.

While some teams are quick to find solutions, some are not always lucky. Although there have been talented players like Rabiu Ibrahim and Haruna Lukman who have all played the No 10 role for the Super Eagles, due to injuries, they couldn’t hold on to their place in the squad.

Former captain, John Mikel Obi played that role throughout his time with the National Team, but it was like playing with what is available – he was never as effective as Okocha.

However, following Mikel’s retirement, there have been some youngsters that have been touted to be the answer to Nigeria’s long search for a creative midfielder. One of them is Joe Aribo.

The Rangers midfielder who only recently made his international debut has enjoyed a brilliant start to his Super Eagles career. He was on target in the two international friendly games against Ukraine and Brazil respectively.

His performance in those two games earned rave reviews with many even going as far by saying he’s the perfect replacement for Okocha.

But does the 23-year-old has what it takes to be the No 10 the Super Eagles crave for? 

Watching him play, Aribo has the skill and flair which Jay Jay was famously known for during his playing career. However, their styles are contrasting as Aribo does not look like the player who can conjure up a pass out of nowhere – especially against a team that plays ten men behind the ball.

Although the former Charlton midfielder scores a lot of goals, he will be more effective if he plays from the deep. This is an opinion shared by Scottish football journalist, Danny T Owen. He told me Aribo would be more suited to a deeper role, and will still be able to score a lot of goals from that position.

“Obviously Gerrard was one of the best around at making those late runs into the box and Aribo seems to have really picked that up at Rangers”

“I can’t help feeling that his best role eventually may be in a slightly deeper role perhaps, where he can use his energy and excellent ball control to drive the team up the pitch.”

“It’s noticeable how well he protects the ball under pressure, which is something which would obviously help him in the middle of the engine room,” Owen added.

According to whoscored, Aribo has not made a key pass in any of the 29 games he has played so far this season. However, he has not been dispossessed all season, while he has a pass success percentage range of 87.5%.

While he may still function well behind the striker, his best role will be from the deep. In this role, he can drive forward with his pace and energy, a style Yaya Toure is known for.

Aribo has a similar style to the Ivorien and Toure earned a reputation as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League by playing in a central role.

Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr will be able to get the best out Aribo if he plays him from the deep rather than hoping he is our next Jay-Jay.