Arsenal fans have been moaning over Alex Iwobi for two years, but here comes Unai Emery, to turn him into the man we all expected him to be.
You know it’s bad when a player becomes so increasingly bad that fans are ready for him to be sold, even in spite of the potential everyone knows he has. That was the case with Alex Iwobi at Arsenal over the past two years.
Ever since his initial breakthrough, he’d been an absolute nightmare, incapable of keeping his feet underneath him the closer he got to the penalty box. It’s like his mind just refused to cooperate with him. And all that initial talent was just forgotten about because it didn’t matter anymore. He was just bad.
Which was a shame, because he was supposed to be Arsene Wenger’s big return to developing a talented young player. It was between him and Hector Bellerin and the Spaniard hasn’t exactly been on the fast track to success like he once was.
But Alex Iwobi is turning it all around. This year he has looked a brand new man. Like the past two years were just a joke, and that he has actually been that fantastic young player that we all thought he was going to be.
“OHHH ALEX IWOBI!!!” .@KelechiAFC says that he always knew that @alexiwobi had the talent to play for the Arsenal first team! Would you guys start him ahead of Ramsey?? #AFTV #AFC
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) September 29, 2018
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Over the past two full seasons, Iwobi has played in more than 3000 minutes. He has just six goals and eight assists. It’s not a particularly positive rate for a player in a team as creative and high-scoring as the Gunners. Even Arsene Wenger publicly called Iwobi out for his lack of goals and assists.
But this season, Iwobi has looked like a different player. A completely different player. Direct, intentional, purposeful, sharp. And, most importantly, productive. In 329 minutes of action in all competitions, Iwobi has scored once and added three assists, a direct involvement in a goal every 82.25 minutes, a far better rate than his previous seasons.
Admittedly, these numbers come from a very small sample size and it would be somewhat surprising if Iwobi was able to maintain this rate throughout the season
But more than just the stats, Iwobi just looks like a different player to what he has been in recent seasons. That same youthful drive that he first broke into the team with has replaced the hesitancy and uncertainty that plagued his game.
Iwobi has been heavily involved in four of our last five goals and hasn’t got a single goal or assist for it.
He’s a perfect example of why you need to look at more than just direct goal contributions. pic.twitter.com/1PyKMwt7WN
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) September 30, 2018
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js His fleetness of foot has returned. His dribbling is as sharp as ever. His end product, in service especially, has improved markedly. Iwobi is a different player. Emery deserves a lot of credit for this, as does Iwobi himself. For how long it will last remains to be seen. But for however long it does, I will be quite happy watching it.
Iwobi’s key differences come in the exact areas where he was supposed to have weaknesses. He looks deadly around the goal and he has rediscovered that first lovable trait – his directness. He just drives into the opposing defense without hesitation.
That’s all Unai Emery. Even if it is subconscious Unai Emery, in the sense that Iwobi felt the encroaching changes and adjusted himself, it’s still Unai Emery.
Think about it. In a world where Wenger had Mkhitaryan and Ozil, Emery is actually starting to convince people that Iwobi should be starting, either alongside or in spite of these two proven commodities.
There may even come a time when he can successfully replace either or both of them. It sounds crazy, right? But it’s really not. Iwobi is capitalizing on his talent in a big way and the sooner we can bank on him and move away form the “one last hurrah” that Wenger tried to stage, the better.
It’s a pipe dream still, but I want Iwobi to replace everyone. Just let this pipeline produce workable talent again. That’s what the point is, isn’t it?