Eyebrows were raised when Alex Iwobi was selected ahead of Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira in the starting line-up against Chelsea in August.
While the result that day didn’t go the Gunners’ way, the 22-year-old impressed with a goal, an assist and an eagerness to be a game-changer. He’s not looked back since.
Having earned the trust of new coach Unai Emery, Iwobi has gone on to make a further 11 appearances in all competitions this campaign, silencing a few doubters along the way.
It’s probably fair to say that of all the players inherited by Emery, the Academy graduate, who signed a new deal in the summer, appears to have benefitted the most from the newfound work ethic being instilled at the training ground.
Ahead of Liverpool’s visit to the Emirates, Emery was asked what advice he’s given to the player to spark such an upturn in form.
“It’s try, try, try and try,” said the Spaniard. “If you are doing a good action individually or not, continue with the confidence to try another, to try again.
“After that, good commitment every day, good behaviour every day and feel together with your team and respect decisions and respect your teammates.
“There is only one thing I know, work. You are working, you are winning this confidence every day, then your quality is there to be better in each match.”
He went on: “He [Iwobi] is very young and I think he played here with improving moments in his career.
“We need to also push him more to improve because he has the quality and the capacity.
“The first thing is with the behaviour in training, finding ways to improve every day. And then, also to give him what he can improve tactically, individually.
“I think a lot of it is confidence, every player needs confidence. Not only with playing but when we are together and we are here.
“I want every player to feel this confidence but also with a very big demand from us and on himself also to work every day.”
Having committed his long-term future to the Gunners, it’s great that Alex knuckled down and is now reaping the benefits. A few more goals and assists to his name, something he’s talked about himself, and we’ll have a real player on our hands.