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Friday 28 October 2016

Arsene Wenger believes England will rue loss of Arsenal's Alex Iwobi

Published 02/04/2016 | 22:36

Alex Iwobi, right, celebrates with team-mate Alexis Sanchez after scoring Arsenal's second goal against Watford
Alex Iwobi, right, celebrates with team-mate Alexis Sanchez after scoring Arsenal's second goal against Watford

Arsene Wenger admitted Alex Iwobi's decision to play for Nigeria is a loss for England after the teenager inspired Arsenal to a 4-0 victory over Watford.

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Iwobi scored one and made another at Emirates Stadium, with the other goals coming from Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott to help keep the Gunners' faint title hopes alive.

The 19-year-old, who came through the club's academy, has now scored two in as many games for Wenger's side and he continues to flourish while the likes of Walcott and Joel Campbell remain on the bench.

The Nigerian-born forward played for England at junior level and it was thought he might commit to the senior side, but the possibility was ended when he played in an African Nations Cup qualifier for Nigeria against Egypt last week.

"Is he a loss for England? Yes," Wenger said.

"We have values in our club that are maybe not rated always, but one of them is to give a chance to young people and educate them.

"Every year we bring players out and not many can say that. I'm happy Alex is one of them.

"He arrived here at the age of seven or eight. He's completely integrated in the way we want to play football.

"He's worked with us since the start of the season and it shows because when he came in he was used to the way we want to play."

Iwobi's pace and power posed a constant threat to the Watford defence and he could have scored another had the crossbar not kept out a bending effort in the second half.

While some of Arsenal's players appear to have wilted under the pressure of the title race, Iwobi appears fearless and his confidence was clear to see against the Hornets.

"It's one of his qualities," Wenger said. "He's also very mobile and is a midfielder with creativity but is also a finisher.

"The quality of his receptions is very good because he gets into good spaces."

Arsenal's victory closes the gap behind Leicester to eight points with seven matches remaining.

The Gunners have work to do but their fixtures are kind, with Manchester City and West Ham the only teams currently in the top six they still have left to play.

"We want to focus on the way we play and keep the quality very high. Then we'll see where we are," Wenger said. "We will fight until the end to have a chance."

Watford's defeat continues a miserable run for Quique Sanchez Flores' side, who have won only twice in the league since Christmas and remain 14th in the table.

Etienne Capoue was taken off after just 41 minutes in North London, not long after he let Sanchez ghost past him in the build-up to Iwobi's goal, but Flores said it was his mistake to play the Frenchman on the left of midfield.

"When I have to make some substitutes before half time the first thing we have to reflect is this is a fault of the coach," Flores said.

"If I think I make a mistake I correct it as quick as possible. I don't need to wait until half time. If I consider one mistake I try to correct it.

"The moment we went 2-0 the plan is another one. Sometimes if you change the plan you need to change the players."

The suspicion is that Watford's attention has shifted away from the league, where they are likely already safe, to their FA Cup semi-final against Everton in three weeks' time at Wembley.

"It is important not to confuse the targets," Flores said.

"The semi of the FA Cup is a real situation we want to live in the future. We have to live in the present and in six days we play against Everton, this is our target.

"If we think about what happens in three weeks we are making a big, big mistake."

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