Alex Iwobi - The Man With The Golden Gun

Alex Iwobi – The Man With The Golden Gun

Alex Iwobi arrived on the Arsenal scene with a weight of expectations on his shoulders. There was a buzz around his name, in the same way, that heralded the arrivals of Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere. Arsenal had once again got their hands on a burgeoning talent, a player who could set the Premier League alight.

He had the pedigree. His uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha carved a mercurial path across Germany, Turkey, France and England. The Nigerian international earned his reputation as one of the football’s great entertainers, leaving a trail of admirers and opponents in his wake.

His nephew had big boots to follow. That we don’t talk of Iwobi as Jay-Jay Okocha’s nephew tells you the impact the youngster has made. Iwobi has been phenomenal in an almost unassuming way.

Alex Iwobi with Jay Jay

When the media makes a big deal out of a player before he’s made a first team appearance of note, you know that the individual in question is something special. A minor kerfuffle broke out in the English media when Iwobi chose his native Nigeria for full international honours.

There was a certain amount of relief around the Emirates when the Super Eagles found themselves edged out of next year’s Africa Cup of Nations. Not that Chad’s withdrawal made any difference; the Nigerians made a complete hash of their group and were nowhere near the last stage either via direct qualification or the runners-up route.

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That tells you the importance with which Iwobi is viewed at Arsenal. He isn’t just a useful squad member; this is a young man of twenty summers who has made an indelible mark on the Gunners first team.

Iwobi is an immense talent. It was evident in Mesut Őzil’s praise of the young man:

He reminds me of his uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha. He was a player I loved watching.

Alex reminds me of a mixture of him and Edgar Davids. He’s really strong on the ball, also defensively, but he’s good in front of goal too.

Mesut Ozil

Chelsea succumbed to a 3 – 0 defeat at the Emirates last week and Iwobi was pivotal in Arsenal’s victory. The youngster was instrumental in a fine performance which drew praise from all quarters.

Arsenal have struggled in recent seasons against their west London rivals but embracing the free movement of Iwobi, they tore into Chelsea’s defence, leaving the Blues dazed and confused. Iwobi has liberated the Gunners, providing the individualism which their slick passing needs to rise above the defensive shackles so often placed upon them in the Premier League.

With Olivier Giroud absent through injury and suspension, Arsenal were expected to struggle. Lucas Perez is adjusting to the English game following his arrival from Deportivo La Coruna this summer and is being brought through to first team football slowly by Arsène Wenger whilst Theo Walcott had been horribly out of form since taking Aston Villa to a task at Wembley. Certainly the England international wasn’t trusted to lead the Arsenal line.

Wenger turned to Alexis Sanchez. Whilst he has played centrally for his country, at Arsenal the Chilean has struggled to come to grips with the way the team plays. Or Arsenal struggled to come to grips with the way Sanchez played centrally. Whatever the cause, it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven when used before.

The Champions League tie in Paris was a prime example of how it didn’t work. Alexis was dropping deep to collect the ball with no-one running past him to take on the attacking role. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on his unfavoured side of the pitch, Arsenal were unbalanced.

And they didn’t have Alex Iwobi on the left. The Nigerian international brings the balance which was previously missing.

He was nurtured into the first. Given a few minutes here and there as a substitute by Wenger in other competitions, Iwobi really made his mark when given his first start in the Premier League at Goodison Park.

Alex Iwobi Vs Everton

Everton couldn’t live with the youngster, emphasized by his first half goal. Iwobi was far from overawed, rising to the occasion and performing consistently in the matches afterwards. He made thirteen Premier League appearances in 2015/16, and the biggest compliment that can be given is that he didn’t look out of place.

Part of that is down to being at the best club for his abilities. Iwobi gives Arsenal a balance that is missing when Alexis Sanchez is on the left. The Chilean is a livewire but prone to cutting inside onto his favoured right foot. Iwobi isn’t so predictable.

Comfortable on either foot, he drifts centrally when the play dictates and roams the wider positions seeking an advantage wherever he can gain one. The unpredictability of his play is given Arsenal a sharper edge when they approach the opposition’s area.

Ingenuity undid the Chelsea defence for the second goal in the 3 – 0 win last weekend. It’s this which Iwobi brings to the table. And humility.

Arsène Wenger has been keen to identify the player as someone willing to learn, a youngster unimpressed by the glitz on the periphery of football. This is a young man who wants to learn.

At the moment, because I'm not really the best at defending, [Wenger] says I need to treat it how I treat attacking.

And that's something that's really rung true with me. I love attacking, but I hate defending and it's something I need to add to my game.

Alex Iwobi

Iwobi’s desire to improve isn’t unusual; players who want to reach the top all share that trait but his quiet determination to do so is impressive.

And something which is impressing his more senior colleagues. Mesut Őzil went on to add:

He’s developing really well and if he continues the way he’s been playing for the whole season, he will enhance his game.

Mesut Ozil

The nascent partnership between the pair was a key feature of the wins over Chelsea and Basel. Interchanging comfortably, Iwobi and Őzil moved from flank to centre and back without any discernable interruption to Arsenal’s flow.

It offers a tantalising prospect for the rest of the season. Arsenal supporters are hoping that the last two games are the new beginning but there is a long way to go until the end of the season. Iwobi’s exuberance offers hope but in the cut-throat Premier League world, delivery is all that matters.

About the Author Moha

Hardcore fun of the beautiful game. Played soccer for different clubs in my country before hanging up my boots. Now writer for My Soccer HQ

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