Today, in the second of our “Verdict” columns, we will be turning a judgmental eye on Alex Iwobi – a player Arsene Wenger insists on playing, week-in, week-out – although the reason for doing so sin’t very clear…
Should we sell him? Loan him out? Drop him to the bench?
YOU BE THE JUDGE.
Consider the evidence laid out below, and then pass your sentence in the poll at the end.
FOR THE PROSECUTION
Alex Iwobi has epitomised many youngsters who have broke onto the scene at a young age under Arsene Wenger, show promise, break into the first team and slowly decline into a very average player, Iwobi first raised eyebrows towards the latter stages of the 2015/16 season but has slowly become one of Arsenal’s most frustrating and sincerely average players.
Arsenal’s recent form cannot excuse just how below par Alex Iwobi has been in the last 18 months or so, overall the team has not performed as we would have liked but Iwobi, naturally a left wide forward who tends to come inside, has produced very little in the way of goals and assists to justify his constant selection under Arsene Wenger. With 7 goals and 8 assists in 58 Premier League appearances for Arsenal, it is an extremely poor return for a player who is supposed to be one of the team’s most prominent creators and effective players, but he’s just not doing it.
A player who obviously divides opinion amongst the Arsenal fanbase, Alex has often been the scapegoat for poor performances and in my opinion it is justified. A player who doesn’t do too much in the way of defensive tracking can also often fail to become a good transitional player when turning defence into attack, the ball will often get stuck under his feet or his end product just won’t be there, which has led to real frustration from players, pundits and especially fans.
What Do We Do With Him?
For me, it isn’t hard. He showed real endeavour in his early stages but overall I have never felt he was good enough to play for Arsenal or even at this level. For a wide forward, his return of goals and assists is absolutely shocking, especially when the team is often trying to break deep blocks of defence he is way below par.
Personally, I would sell him, his assets would lie better in a team without the pressure of challenging in the upper echelons of the English game and in European competition. The club and Arsene Wenger in particular have accepted extremely mediocre players for such a long time now I think change is well needed for the players because far too many are happy to play averagely every week and collect a heavy pay packet and Alex Iwobi epitomises that.
Alex Iwobi, so good they named him twice (well his uncle was)
The case for the prosecution:
Don’t get me wrong, I think Iwobi has some talent, the problem is, I don’t think that talent fits in with the ‘new’ Arsenal format or that that talent is up to the required standard.
He doesn’t replace any of the front 3 of Miki, PEA and Özil and would be on the bench (if he’s lucky) behind Laca and Welbeck.
With better prospects in Nelson, Nketia and to some degree AMN, he could very soon find himself further down the list.
Also, his style is very dribbley orientated and since the offload of Alexis, we have been moving away from that to our better suited short sharp passing game.
He can do a job in the Premier League, but I don’t think that is / should be with Arsenal and the World Cup could be a good shop front for him.
I have to be honest here . I don’t rate Iwobi that highly. People say he’s only a young lad and he needs time. How much time does he need! He’s been given more opportunities than any of the other young players and in my opinion he hasn’t progressed. When I think of players like Rocastle and Brady at 21 years old there is no comparison. He doesn’t look any better now than when he first came into the side. He frustrates the hell out of me and he’s a very lucky boy to be given the chances he’s had.
I will freely admit that when Iwobi burst on to the Arsenal scene I thought he had it all and would remain a first team player and integral to it swiftly.
Now, two years on I find myself asking whether I was entirely wrong and just projected my hopes onto his talent or whether I was right but Iwobi has just failed to progress at all.
He has a great first touch and moved with the ball at feet as well as any we have but for a player in his advanced position the final pass and the finishing and killer instinct (which he had at youth level) has deserted him.
In simple terms with so many goalscorers sold from our current squad we cannot afford a winger or dual 10 who does not assist or contribute a quota of goals.
Wenger will stick by him but it is not doing Iwobi, the man, any favours. He needs proper coaching in his role in the team and particularly in his off-the-ball movement. He either gets this with a new manager in pre-season or he should get a loan perhaps.
All that said a great World Cup might do wonders for him.
FOR THE DEFENCE
I refer to Iwobi as “Mr. Halfspace” both due to his general positioning and footballing skillset. On the pitch, he likes to settle into that area between the wing and center of midfield and act as a link between deep and advanced midfield. Some of the initial work he provides in this area is brilliant but struggles afterwards. He shouldn’t be sold because he has a lot of qualities that top footballers possess like a deft first touch away from pressure and dribbling ability in open space. His deficiencies stem from a “head down” playing style and lack of composure in the final third. If he learns to better read the game with his head on a swivel hopefully his extra touches diminish and end product develops. Additionally, he needs to be more comfortable drifting wide and collecting on the touchline like Ozil and Mhki can. This will open up space for his dribbling in central areas.
I sentence him to the bench. Like in his breakout season, he is a player that should be proving his team worth through the early rounds of Cup Competitions and substitute appearances.
I have a lot of sympathy for Iwobi – yet again we have a young player who comes into the side and shows a lot of promise. Who can forget his performance against Everton a couple of seasons ago ?
The problem with a lot of Arsenal supporters is they want to see young lads coming into the team through our youth system but they expect them to be world class straight away.
Young players need time to gain confidence and to develop. It doesn’t help when supporters start getting on the backs of youngsters in every game they play. Iwobi makes mistakes as do all players but some some of our supporters start groaning every time the lad gets the ball. Lets give the lad a chance and if he doesn’t improve so be it.
– @OldManGooner (Arsenal North Wales)
Alex Iwobi is still very young, but look at other promising young talent over the past few years. They have not progressed. Has Wenger lost his touch? Has the man who brought through Anelka, Henry (or developed him into a world-class forward from a winger), Cesc, van Persie, Nasri, Cole, etc. lost his capability to develop youth?
Who knows? However, the stalling of Bellerin is a guide here. Bellerin has not necessarily advanced, and it may not be all his fault. My suspicion is the same is true here of Iwobi.
He burst onto the scene vs. Everton at Goodison Park in 2016, and looked a star. That, and the Nigerian great Augustine “Jay-Jay” Okocha, being his uncle added more spice to his promise. But since then, he has stagnated, and not been the same.
The incident with the party is moot in my opinion, since he’s not the first nor last player to have too much fun. At the least, unlike other players in recent times, he didn’t break the law, nor assault anybody (looking at certain ex-players of late, concerning assaults…..) The indiscretions of certified legends of Arsenal, like Adams, were far worse, let’s be honest.
It could be the environment at the club that’s at fault, and it’s not lending to youth development, as it once did. Iwobi is better for his national team (Nigeria) than he is for us, and that says something. If he does well for them in the World Cup, then it may be an indication of where the issue lies.
VERDICT – KEEP. The evidence for a conviction is not very comprehensive to prove guilt beyond reasoned doubt.
Iwobi’s Premier League equivalents – if we’re talking position (predominantly from the left and a ball carrying player) – are Salah/Mane (Liverpool), Sane, (Man City), Son (Spurs), Hazard (Chelsea) and Rashford/Sanchez (Man United). It’s not even necessary to go into a stat comparison matrix to know that Iwobi doesn’t particularly match up well to those players!
Much like Bellerin – who burst on to the scene but has regressed – Iwobi has clearly suffered from a lack of coaching. Some players need more than being told to ‘go and express themselves’ and Alex is certainly one. He’s often the scapegoat for our failings and yes, his end product is lacking, but similar things were said and written about Raheem Sterling and look at him now.
Football365 did a piece last week about how a lack of coaching has failed Bellerin and Jack Pitt-Brooke has written an article today about how the opposite is true for Sterling and he’s improved no end since Pep Guardiola went to Man City. I would love to see Iwobi be taught under a different setup. He’d maybe fail, but at least he’d have a chance and the promise that was there two years ago might return.
So there you have it: the defence and the prosecution have put forward their reasons to sell/loan/bench/keep Iwobi.
YOU ARE THE JUDGE. What do you think?!
Pass your sentence in the poll below.[socialpoll id=”2494987″]
I was eleven-and-a-half. My family had just emigrated from Rhodesia to South Africa. All the kids on my street supported United or Liverpool, because of their Southern African goalkeeper connections: Bailey for United and Grobbelaar for ‘Pool. Problem was: I didn’t like the colour red – so when FA Cup Final day came around in 1979, I supported the team in yellow, even though their name sounded like “Asshole”. At the final whistle, I had bragging rights and a team that had won my heart.
Then I discovered that the Gunners also wore red. Luckily, I remained loyal, and the Arsenal has kicked my heart around ever since… (apart from a few lost years in the ’90s and early ’00s, when I was busy doing grownup things as a composer in Hollywood).
Abandoned invinciblog.com to launch this site with 1 Nil Down 2 One Up blogfather Dave Seager – and we have used this platform to help launch the writing careers of a number of amazing Arsenal bloggers.