Alex Iwobi waits patiently for his next Arsenal opportunity
There’s no time like the present for Nigerian attacking midfielder Alex Iwobi, who made a promising individual start to the 2018-19 season with Arsenal, only to miss out on the action in recent weeks due to an unfortunate illness. Nevertheless, he’s keen to continue proving his worth as a valid option for manager Unai Emery, having made the most of limited minutes on the pitch.
Iwobi was an unused substitute in the Premier League opener against Manchester City, with the Gunners suffering a two-goal defeat at home. However, he did start the following match away at Chelsea, playing a key role and scoring as the team impressively clawed their way back from 2-0 down to make it 2-2, only for the Blues to grab the winner in the final ten minutes at Stamford Bridge.
Iwobi: “Its making me feel a bit sharper, I’m doing things with a bit more intensity. Its not just for me, though, I feel like I’m helping the team a lot more. Its benefitting me a lot more” #Arsenal pic.twitter.com/RCLAELV61S
— Gurjit (@GurjitAFC) August 22, 2018
The first Arsenal win of the campaign came with a valuable assist from Iwobi, setting up an equalising goal by Nacho Monreal, five minutes after falling behind at the Emirates against West Ham. Rather than being viewed as a slight on his contribution, Iwobi was sacrificed at half time and replaced by Alexandre Lacazette, as Emery changed the shape of his team to feature two strikers. This move proved both shrewd and effective by the Spanish coach, as the 3-1 win will attest.
Unfortunately for the Nigerian national team, having been called up to the squad for the AFCON qualifier against Seychelles, Iwobi was struck down with influenza and forced to withdraw, having also missed out on Arsenal’s victorious trip to Cardiff City at the start of September. Despite returning to full training in time, he also missed the following Premier League win at Newcastle United.
The dilemma now facing Emery, after three straight league wins, is that he might be tempted not to tinker too much with his squad. That said, the previous form of Iwobi should make him a valuable asset, as Arsenal seek to continue shortening the football betting odds and claim a top-four spot in the Premier League, having been considered outsiders to do so at the start of the campaign.
Meanwhile, Iwobi will obviously be anxious to force his way back into the team, especially having demonstrated the value of his contributions to the team. Born in Lagos but after moving to England as a child, the 22-year-old can genuinely consider himself a lifelong Gunner, having worked his way through the youth system, then proudly debuting with the first team squad back in October 2015.
Iwobi on Emery “He demands a lot. He’s a lot more intense, a lot of high pressing and keeping the ball so that it benefits us if we have the ball. It’s good for us, especially the attackers who like to have the ball a lot.” https://t.co/kY7XnJ3bNq pic.twitter.com/mzuZx3wXJC
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) August 23, 2018
Since then, Iwobi has shown his adeptness in a number of roles, both in midfield and attack, whilst also reaching the impressive milestone of making 100 senior appearances in the cherished Arsenal shirt. That said, establishing himself firmly in the favour of Emery is the current challenge, albeit one he’s capable of meeting with the same habitual determination and enthusiasm.
One certainty is that with fixtures now starting to come thick and fast, as the Europa League gets into full swing and aside from the Premier League, the EFL Cup and the FA Cup should also provide plenty of opportunities for Iwobi to shine. Emery won’t have forgotten about the Nigerian player by any stretch of the imagination, but for the same token and with plenty of games ahead, it’s up to the midfielder to keep grasping and relishing every opportunity that comes his way.