Aribo set for City baptism of fire
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Nigerian midfielder Joe Aribo is set to face a rampant Manchester City on Saturday (today) in what is arguably the toughest fixture of his first season in the English Premier League.
Southampton have failed to win any of their last 11 EPL visits to the Etihad since a 3-1 victory back in April 2004, while they have only ever won two of their 45 away league matches against the reigning topflight champions.
This time, the Cityzens are led by an in-form Erling Haaland, who has scored 19 goals in just 11 games, and will be on the hunt for more goals against the Saints, who have conceded in each of their last 18 away games.
Aribo has managed two goals in eight games in the English topflight, scoring his first in a 2-2 draw against Leeds United, while the second came when he opened the scoring as he squared off against compatriot Alex Iwobi, but Saints ultimately succumbed to a 2-1 home defeat.
Despite his two-goal tally, which is level with Nottingham Forest striker and countryman Taiwo Awoniyi’s goal count and more than every other Nigerian in the EPL this season, Aribo still thinks he is below his best.
“I’d say on a personal note, I want to be more involved in the play in and around the final third, but I’m still learning and trying to improve. I want to be the best that I can be,” he told the club website after his goal against Everton.
“On a personal note, I wouldn’t say I have been at my best. To score [against Everton] was a good feeling, but at the end of the day, not getting a result has made it frustrating.”
Aribo would be keen to be at his best against the only unbeaten side in the competition this season, and the Cityzens are also wary of the threat the Saints pose.
City dropped points in both topflight encounters against the Saints last season, playing out a rare goalless draw on home soil in September 2021, before being held 1-1 at St Mary’s in January. The Cityzens did, however, secure a 4-1 FA Cup victory at St Mary’s in March.
With a desperate Ralph Hasenhuttl on the brink of losing his job, and Aribo keen to help his side win points, following the bitter loss to the Toffees last weekend, including the belief in the Southampton squad after last season’s goalless draw at the Etihad, if a resilient defence can keep Haaland quiet and should Aribo shine as he nearly always does in the big games, the 26-year-old and the youthful Saints may yet escape this baptism of fire unscathed.