Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi has enjoyed a lot more playing time at the Emirates this season without coming away with huge rewards. That’s not to say that the 22-year-old has been massively disappointing, but there still feels like something is missing in his game and the question right now would be: How long is new Gunners boss Unai Emery willing to wait until Iwobi finds a consistent end product?
The general feeling from anyone that has watched the Nigerian this season is that his game has come on, but not to the extent that perhaps a player of his talent should have. The bursts of pace, lightning quick feet, thunderous shooting and powerful heading has only seen him rack up five goals and seven assists in 41 appearances this campaign.
There are worse records in the Premier League this season and it’s important to take in to account Iwobi’s age as well as position, the stats of a winger can often make for underwhelming reading and not do their actual contribution in a game any justice at all. In Iwobi’s case, however, his stats are quite accurate in terms of how effective he has been during the 2018/2019 campaign and the report card so far would read ‘room for improvement’.
It feels like that has been the ongoing narrative dominating the youngster’s career at Arsenal so far, and history would suggest that there is only so much patience that big clubs have with their academy products before shipping them off for a tidy profit. Now, of course, the 22-year-old isn’t being given game time because Arsenal want to put him in the shop window, no, it’s because they know there is a player in there who can join football’s world elite but he must begin delivering on his promise soon.
In the summer of 2018, Iwobi was rewarded with a new long-term contract extension at Arsenal but given that he hasn’t kicked on as predicted, you can’t help but wonder if he has got slightly comfortable on £70,000 a week without pushing himself.
If you were to compare Iwobi to players of a slightly older age in the Premier League, like Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, you’d find they began to distance themselves from their peers at around 22, Iwobi’s age. They were able to find that other gear and are now some of the most sought after players in world football.
At the very least, the top four clubs in England need players that produce by having a telling impact in a game on average, about eight times out of every ten performances, and Iwobi is probably making a difference every four, maybe five times in ten games. If the Gunners are to make the top four this season, which looks far from certain at odds of 8/11 in football betting, they will need their Nigerian superstar to take the games left in the run-in by the scruff of the neck so that they can get over the line.
Suffering a 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park was the latest blow to Arsenal’s hope of getting back into the Champions League. Unai Emery called on Iwobi with 17 minutes to go and he immediately looked lively and dangerous, but wasn’t able to get a lethargic Gunners side up the pitch quick enough to steal a point.
17 minutes for #BIG17 to make an impact ⏲
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 7, 2019
Naturally, not all of Arsenal’s losses are down to Iwobi in any way, but he has to be seen as a player that can inspire the Gunners to greatness once more.
For that to happen, the 22-year-old will need to take responsibility and repay the faith shown in him by Arsenal or else be shown the door after the powers that be decide they have seen enough.