Thursday, 23 November 2017

Why can't Alex Iwobi recreate Nigeria form for Arsenal?

The 21-year-old is increasingly full of impact on the international stage, but why has he not produced as prolifically for the Gunners?
Let us consider for a minute the man that is Alex Iwobi.
Now 21, right around the age when generational wealth, for so long bound up in trust funds, is bequeathed, it no longer seems a stretch to say (or see, for that matter) that his most precious inheritance is the skill that once found a home in his uncle Jay-Jay Okocha, the Dionysian embodiment of carefree Nigerian football.
Genetics is a bit of a crap shoot in a sense; we may yet see a direct scion of the former Super Eagles captain evince the same wonder with his use of the ball, but that is strictly supposition.
It seems that it was only yesterday the debate over whether he was deserving of a place in the national team was raging, with diatribes from both sides of the divide causing a sharp rift, and perhaps precipitating this tiresome dichotomy of home-grown vs foreign-born that is now fighting for the soul of Nigerian football.
We have watched him grow, both in a literal and figurative sense: going from worrying (both for his sake and in the service of the aforementioned agenda) whether he was up to the challenge of playing African football to enjoying him bullying Javier Mascherano off the ball is quite the metamorphosis.
If there is any disappointment over Iwobi, it is that his rise in profile with the Super Eagles is not perfectly mirrored at club level.
That he is rated very highly at Arsenal is not in doubt: faced with his nuttiest challenge of the season to date, Arsene Wenger opted to play him from the start away at Manchester City, champions-elect in the eyes of many.
Alex Iwobi Arsene Wenger Arsenal

That said, since his breakout in the second half of the 2015/16 season, one which saw him ride a wave into the following season, there seems to be some stalling; perhaps even regression.
Some of that is simply to do with shape.
For all intents and purposes, 3-4-2-1 is now very much the first-choice starting system at Arsenal, a departure from the 4-2-3-1 that held sway when Iwobi first came to the fore. Noticeably, the former has one less attacking spot, and the chief victims of the need for greater defensive numbers have been the Nigeria international and Theo Walcott.
In Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal may have two want-aways. What is certain though is that, when in their element, as they were at the weekend in the North London Derby, those two are untouchable. There can be little shame for a 21-year-old in being just behind those two in the pecking order.
As it is, our twinkle-toed magician has had to make do with the Europa League, a competition that, for all that Uefa have added the perk of automatic Champions League qualification into the mix for winners, most English clubs do not want to be in.
Alex Iwobi Arsenal Everton
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