There are many reasons for Rangers fans to be excited about the future. Of course, there is their derby win over Celtic and current league position, which would see them go top if they win their game in hand. Another good reason is the two-year contract extension manager Steven Gerrard signed in December. Then there is the recent form of Joe Aribo.

At just 23 years of age, Aribo is fast becoming one of Rangers’ most impressive players. Upon arriving at Ibrox, his skill was essentially mitigated by his versatility – his ability to fill in anywhere in midfield saw him take on a deeper role while Gerrard tried to figure out his best starting line-up. But in the last month or so, the Nigerian international has thrived in a more advanced position.

Gerrard’s preferred formation is a narrow 4-3-3 where two inside forwards play very central and support Alfredo Morelos in attack and defence. Aribo started out as a left-sided number eight, receiving from the centre-backs and combining with Borna Barisic down the left-hand side. In recent weeks, however, he has been operating on the right side of the front three, which has allowed him to more consistently influence his team’s play in the final third.

He now tends to receive the ball between opposition midfield and defensive lines, where he combines superb control with a strong physical frame – he stands tall at 6ft 2in – to retain the ball under pressure in tight areas where he is surrounded by defenders on all sides. His ball retention skills give Rangers a good outlet for penetrating the opposition – he can take it, hold off his marker then pass to a teammate, turn and go past his man, or drive at the back line and commit defenders.

Playing higher up the pitch has also given Aribo more license to wander, find pockets of space, take his man on, and try to make something happen. When previously playing in the central midfield three, he had to be more conservative, holding his position to offer support as Rangers built possession from the back. Now, without that responsibility on his shoulders, he has more creative license to do what he does best.

Keeping hold of the ball and going past defenders are Aribo’s most evident attributes, but he has also shown he can impact the Rangers attack in other ways. Cutting in from the right onto his favourite left foot suits him, as it enables him to open his body up and play through balls for Morelos or Jermain Defoe to run onto.

The 1-0 win over Kilmarnock prior to the Old Firm win offered a good example of the benefits Aribo brings in congested areas. An hour of play at been and gone at Ibrox that afternoon, and Rangers were struggling to break down a classically stuffy low Killie defensive block. Then the former Charlton man wandered into the penalty box, received a cutting pass from Ryan Jack, controlled it instantly despite attention from multiple defenders, and played in Morelos to score the winning goal.

Even off the ball, Aribo is dangerous. He has a habit of making late runs into the penalty area, offering a lay-off option to the striker or getting on the end of crosses and cut-backs from Barisic and James Tavernier to finish.

All in all, Aribo has made 17 Premiership appearances this season. In his last six outings, he has played in the more advanced ‘inside forward’ role, to the right of Morelos. During this six-game run, he has averaged more shots, goals, through balls and assists than in his previous 11 league games.

These improved numbers underline how well the youngster has adapted to his new position in an attacking sense. Defensively he has also added energy to the frontline. Never was his work ethic and intelligence more apparent than in the win over Celtic, where he blocked passes into midfield, closed down Callum McGregor if the ball went beyond him, and also shifted out wide to help when it came to pressing Boli Bolingoli if Celtic tried to progress down the left flank.

Sometimes, versatility can do more harm than good. Players can become confused as they are shunted around, filling holes in the line-up as and when. Fortunately for him, Aribo appears to have nailed down his best position just six months after arriving in Glasgow.