Iwobi: I never thought I’d get this far

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Alex Iwobi

Alex Iwobi says his path from Arsenal Academy’s to being part of a Gunners squad in a big European final should inspire the next generation of kids coming through the ranks at Hale End and London Colney.

Unai Emery is likely to include a number of youngsters in the squad he takes to Baku next week with UEFA rules stating that both Arsenal and Chelsea will be allowed 12 substitutes for the Europa League final.

Given Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be making the trip it means the likes of Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah will almost definitely be included while goalkeeper Deyan Iliev and midfielders Bukayo Saka and Xavier Amaechi could also make the cut.

It remains to be seen whether Iwobi, 23, gets a starting place, but even if he comes on as a sub he’ll have the chance to fulfil a childhood dream.

“I had many dreams of winning things for Arsenal at a young age,” he told the Evening Standard this week, before adding, “I never thought I would make it this far.

“But to have an opportunity to play in such a big final is great for me, but also to show that youth and Arsenal academy [players] have a chance to play at this level.

“There are a lot of opportunities and if you keep on believing you can make it even better than me.”

Having known nothing but life under Arsene Wenger until the Frenchman departed last summer, Iwobi admitted that it was ‘weird’ returning to Arsenal after the World Cup to be met by new coach Unai Emery. He’s pleased with the way he’s been treated by the new regime and is hopeful of rewarding the boss’ faith in him.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like when he came,” said the Nigerian.

“I can’t lie, it was a bit weird [at first] because I grew into the system playing under Arsene Wenger and that is all I have known.

“But when he did come — I came late to pre-season as I was at the World Cup — he spoke to me and said what ideas he had for me.

“I have bought into them and I’ve played in a lot of matches and he has shown a lot of faith in me. I thank him for that.

“Especially at a young age, to be involved in as many games makes me proud, but I have still got a long way to go and I am sure he has a lot more years at the club as well.

“You can see everyone is fighting, not just for us, but for him. He has a good chemistry with the players and you can see that in his time here.

“To get us to a final, he has had the right tactics and the right players at the right time. We will do our best to win the final for him as well.”

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Pedant
Pedant

Still young and improving, hope he can do something great against Chelsea, an off the bench winner would be perfect.

Heavenly Chapecoense
Heavenly Chapecoense

@Pedant, you are a dreamer. I want Iwobi to have a great game, that means making Laca score two not himself scoring.

C.B.
C.B.

I don’t mind if he doesn’t have a great game, the winner is important (Laca can score 2 and we still not win).

punter
punter

maybe make up for the stamford bridge miss earlier in the season. that would be nice..very nice.

loose_cannon
loose_cannon

Great to see an academy product playing at this level, and still someone who I think gets far too much abuse considering his age. However, I do wonder if he’s the solution to our wide forward problems. Specifically I wonder if his finishing ability and end product will ever be good enough for the role. Under Wenger, Iwobi also had games at 10 and a couple at CM, and did well there. It might be that those positions would get the best out of him long term.

Roof_attack
Roof_attack

“i don’t believe it……..”
“That is why you fail”

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

What have you done in your life?

HelderHughes
HelderHughes

Came runner up in an inter parish ping pong tournament.

Roof_attack
Roof_attack

Climbed a volcano. Parachuted on to Wembley stadium. Arm wrestled Burt Reynolds. Fed a polar bear by hand. Had a shot of vodka with mick jagger in new Orleans. Built my own shelter in the wilderness. You ?

Giuseppe Hovno
Giuseppe Hovno

You forgot “spent a lot of time writing shit comments on the Internet”

Roof_attack
Roof_attack

No just a few times a week to be honest.

Paul Roberts
Paul Roberts

I’d have been more impressed if you had arm wrestled the polar bear… 🙂

Cool story bro
Cool story bro

I bet you get a little excited in your pants writing this down on a comment section of an internet website. cant blame you though, real life achievements are overrated anyways. the internet is where one can truly feel accomplished.

Roof_attack
Roof_attack

This was a star wars quote ,poking fun at iwobi for not believing in himself. Sorry internet!

Cygans Parting
Cygans Parting

I was surprised that no else seemed to get the Master Yoda quote from Empire Strikes Back.
I enjoyed your witty repartee sir even if no one else did.

Sancheezy
Sancheezy

If someone at Chelsea could kick him to rile him up again like he did against Burnley, that would be great!

Maul Person
Maul Person

Better if it doesn’t take a kick! Let’s get at Chelsea from kick off.

Francesc
Francesc

He needs to take the next step

Anonymarse
Anonymarse

He needs to be more consistent

Cacho
Cacho

For me it’s not an issue of consistency with Iwobi. He’s usually pretty good at build up play down the left. For me it’s about his end product. His decision making in final third, final ball, and finishing are all not great. If he can improve on that he’d be a top player

Red Arrow
Red Arrow

Don’t think he’s good enough at this level. Just runs into defenders and doesn’t deliver enough quality crosses. Hope he proves me wrong in the final!

Eternal Titi Berg Pat Nostalgia
Eternal Titi Berg Pat Nostalgia

Agree, Iwobi is the only top 6 team winger who doesn’t score goals. Wenger created this concept and defended it when he put Eboué as a winger.

Eternal Titi Berg Pat Nostalgia
Eternal Titi Berg Pat Nostalgia

Sane/Mahrez
Mane/Salah
Rashford/Lingard
Moura/Son
Hazard/Pedro
Iwobi/Mikhi or Iwobi/Auba or Iwobi/Laca
Who scores the least ?

George
George

Pretty much.

And 23 is not young.

Sue

You’re not the only one!

Snagger
Snagger

Agree with Sue I can’t believe it either. I know he’s young but he’s reactive rather than instinctive plays a lot of time with the head down with the ball which is the reason for a lot of his poor choices. A squad player at most, need someone with more fight in them. May improve but from the bench.

santi's thigh grab
santi's thigh grab

His current level is not as a starter but should be coming off the bench. He could improve over time to become a starter. He’s not the problem in our team. Would love to see someone with more quality but we have bigger quality issues to deal with this summer than Iwobi. Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Micki and Ozil all need to move on. A new CB or two, B to B middie, pacy dribbling winger on the right are all higher on my list of issues to address.

AdebayorInGoldenArsenalOPhil
AdebayorInGoldenArsenalOPhil

Gotta say, I like the Wobester. Not sure the wing suits him that well, think he could end up as part of a midfield three. Gonna be interesting to see how it plays out.

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

I’ll get negged for this, but I really want to see him as a CM in a midfield 3. I think it would accentuate all his strengths (dribbling, passing, physical strength and give him more passing and direction opportunities) and minimise his weaknesses (final ball entry, end product in goals and assists).

John C
John C

Sorry but his passing is shocking

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

It really isn’t, it just becomes the case when he plays as a forward and he’s ran out of dribbling options.

Iwobi isn’t even a winger; his time at the academy was either CM or CAM (sometimes even as a CF).

John C
John C

It really is, anything that isn’t backwards rarely reaches it’s target

Daniel
Daniel

Wenger tried this at the end of his last season. Yet to see if Emery is also such fan of finding better suited positions for players.

John C
John C

His best position is being sold whilst he still has some value. We talk about learning lesson but one of the lessons we need to learn is getting rid when it’s clear to us but not others that a player isn’t good enough.

Santori
Santori

Top player.

Like some others (Ozil, Granit, Mustafi) often a lightning rod for hysteria and unfair criticism.

He needs to improve his finishing but most of the best stuff comes from our left for a reason.

Has developed a great understanding in tandem with Kolasinac which needs to be further exploited.

BUT as far as players who have the technical ability to take on opponents (and pull players out of position), aside from Lacazette this season, there’s only Iwobi.

Next season (IF) we can put Nelson into the first team (and avoid him getting his head turned by other teams), we have a more balance approach on BOTH flanks.

We will still need one more highly technical (and more experienced) player in the wide areas (say a Ziyech)

We were too dependent on Bellerin making up for width on right flank for a long time now (arguably since Alexis was around).

We need to find a better balance and be less predictable (to defend against)

John C
John C

Our best stuff comes down the left even when he isn’t playing, think United, Rennes and Chelsea at home, and that’s because of Kolasinac and his style of play and as you rightly state our attacking width comes from our full backs.

Goonerink

also sanchez did sweet f.a to create width on the right as a LM or LW…

PaddyVieira
PaddyVieira

Started the season well but faded badly, he still lacks composure and end product. He would never get near a liverpool or city starting eleven. Would love to see him push on but like Walcott I don’t think he will ever produce consistently. You state that Xhaka, Ozil and Mustafi receive unfair criticism, yet another ludicrous comment from the eternal bore that is Santori.

loose_cannon
loose_cannon

Tbh I don’t think you can compare Iwobi to Walcott, if anything they’re the polar opposites. Iwobi is a good dribbler, gets involved in the build up play, but has very little end product. Walcott was a so-so dribbler, faded in and out of games constantly, but was a regular goalscorer and assister.

John C
John C

The similarity with Walcott is that we’re in danger of holding on waiting for a level of improvement that will never come.

If the club is interested in pursuing a policy of good financial husbandry he’s the exact type of player we should look to move on. He’s got to worth £20m to some club who think they can see potential in him, and that would represent pretty much 100% profit to the club, that’s a win win situation to me

Paul Roberts
Paul Roberts

I remember seeing a training video where Ozil and Alexis were pointing to him saying he was brilliant and I had high hopes. He hasn’t delivered just yet…but it really stuck in my mind.

John C
John C

Wenger signed Stepanovs because Bergkamp said he was brilliant, it is possible sometimes that players don’t tell the truth

Vonnie
Vonnie

Iwobi is 23 years old now, he should be doing better. I can imagine that next season will be make or break for him, either he finds some consistency and ups his game or I can see him being sold. No more days of waiting on a players potential at the age of 25 just because they’re home grown, there are others just as good if not better coming through.

santi's thigh grab
santi's thigh grab

We have bigger problems than Iwobi.

Guendooooz
Guendooooz

Let’s not forget about Raheem Sterling. When he was younger, he got a ton of stick for the quality his end product. Now look at him. Not saying Iwobi = Raheem, but the chance for development and refinement is still there.

Badaab
Badaab

I would like to see Iwobi do well, not just in the final, but next season as well. This campaign he proved he isn’t above doing the hard work and seemed to take to Emery’s philosophy fairly well- how he kicks on will tell us a lot about not only him, but also the club.
He fits the age profile we’re supposedly after during the summer rebuild (read: mad trolley dash), and along with Torreira and Guendouzi, is the future of our midfield. Having him happy and settled is important if we’re to get the best from him.

Sauce
Sauce

Can we just sell him already so we can look at someone else to blame/pick on.. You can’t have a squad of 40 Messi’s all.
Its not his fault that we haven’t got better players to start ahead of him