After his impressive performance against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, Alex Iwobi is the newest Arsenal sensation. The 19-year-old was calm and poised on the ball, worked tirelessly and tracked back to help out defensively. He was incisive with his passes and direct in his movement both with and without the ball (something that Arsenal have arguably been missing of late).
The youngster has impressed in the FA Cup this season prior to Watford knocking the north London side out of the quarter final but Barcelona away in the Champions League is a different level. He handled the stage well and did not look out of place. In fact, alongside Mesut Ozil, he looked the player most likely to create a half decent chance throughout the game. He even had an opportunity through on goal but got his feet tangled in the box and went down.
The Nigerian’s performance was one of the bright spots of a disappointing evening, the whole team played well, Iwobi especially. This begs the question, what is his future in the team?
Arsene Wenger has shown that he believes Iwobi is ready for first-team football, playing him in the FA cup and now the Champions League this season. With his performances, there is no doubt that he is ready to have a run in the side. The question of rushing him straight in then comes into play.
Yes, he has shown he wants and probably deserves first team football, but is he ready to play week in week out in the toughest, most physical league in the world? Probably not. Iwobi deserves a start or two for the rest of the season, but should be content with substitute appearances as well. This also factors in the idea of what is his best position?
In the FA Cup, the youngster has excelled in the no.10 role. His decisive passing and great vision allow him to thrive in behind the centre forward. He is tall and athletic which allows him to get on the end of headers and provide good support for the attackers. The only problem is that Arsenal’s no.10 position is cemented by Ozil.
In the Champions League, Iwobi started on the left-wing and was forever switching with Alexis Sanchez. His power, pace, and dribbling ability make him a dynamic wide man. His direct ability to take on players creates tons of space for others. This is the position in which his time in the team could come. With Alexis locking down one of the wing positions, Iwobi is currently set to compete with Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell for the other. Given the former’s poor form, the young Nigerian arguably deserves to get in the team ahead of him. Whether he deserves to play ahead of Campbell is a different story. Both have shown promise and played well during their spells in the team. The two are likely to take turns playing out on the right for the rest of the season, unless one stamps their mark on the role.
Iwobi has shown great promise and ability in his outings this season. He always plays with effort, desire, and passion. His direct mentality and technical ability make him an attacking threat and his work rate makes him a wonderful defensive addition.
It is key that Wenger does not rush the youngster into the first team, but does give him enough time and experience in the league for him to develop, albeit considering he does not want to send him out on loan. Even though his best position may be the no.10, the young Nigerian will have to settle for one of the wing positions for now. Iwobi is undoubtedly one of, if not the club’s best young talents, and he must be managed properly to help him reach full potential.