Alex Iwobi - The Man With The Golden Gun

Why Alex Iwobi is Ready for the Next Big Step

Maturity is all about taking responsibility. It entails getting a job done by any possible means. Alex Iwobi isn’t there, at least not yet, but the signs are auspicious for the Nigerian.

Iwobi’s breakthrough at Arsenal, two years ago, gave birth to a certain sense of optimism. A positive vibe that wasn’t only felt in north London but thousands of miles away in West Africa. Being the only lad, since Jack Wilshere, to burst into the first team, he received a VIP-like kind of treatment from Arsene Wenger. Yet, it was nothing compared to the demigod status he got back home.

Such colossal tag came with an equal burden. Iwobi had to deliver the goods anytime he’s called upon. And he did that quite remarkably in his first season. The 21-year-old displayed superb attacking artistry; wrecking havoc with his powerful link-up play, technical skill as well as dribbling. Yet one key ingredient was lacking in his game: finishing.

That’s not to say the Nigerian was completely useless in front of goal. He actually did hit the back of the net twice and laced a couple for his teammates. Quite a decent return for a rookie you’d agree. But Iwobi never really seemed man enough to take games by the scruff of the neck. Just flashes of brilliance in few matches and that’s that.

But it will be rather harsh to have expected more from a teenager. So the pressure piled up ahead of his second season. Though he started greatly, snagging three assists in his first four matches, Iwobi went off the rail off yet again. Perhaps Wenger’s switch to a back three was a contributing factor as the 21-year-old drastically vanished into thin air.

Around this same period, he had already garnered seven caps for the Super Eagles with nothing to show. For the first, a reported 40,000 spectators crammed into a 25,000 capacity stadium to catch a first-hand glimpse of the youngster in action for his country. However, they were left utterly disillusioned as their new poster boy failed to lift them against Egypt. Baseless comparison with his legendary uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha, has since ensued.

While there may be some striking resemblance in their playing style, Okocha started shoving his team’s burden much earlier. He scored his first goal for Nigeria on his second appearance, aged 19. That strike qualified the country for their first ever World Cup in 1994. Same at his club. He was the fulcrum of his team’s attack and provided that extra spice from set pieces.

Well thankfully, there appears to be a noticeable upturn in Iwobi’s prospects of late, starting really with the 0-0 draw away at Chelsea when he stepped in for Mesut Ozil and performed manfully. He followed up that epic performance with a rare strike against Brighton. That’s a player beginning to take responsibility; starting to act like an adult. Even Wenger reckons the time is right for the Nigerian to move to the next level.

“What you want from him is the final balls and goals as well. A player like him must score 10 goals and he must as well give between six and 10 assists. That’s what I want of him.”

That little pep talk by the Frenchman obviously did wonders. Iwobi returned to Nigeria a reformed man. Despite hitting the net the week before, the 21-year-old wasn’t even deemed good enough to start for his country against Zambia. But when he eventually got the nod, he stepped in and grabbed the winner, sending his country to the world cup. That’s the sort of impact every manager wants. It was only his second goal in 11 games for the Eagles, yet the magnitude of the encounter and the ease with which he delivered shows he’s coming of age.

About the Author Toby

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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