Tuesday 25 June 2019

Iwobi doubters remain despite rise as weapon to fire Gunners

Alex Iwobi: End product. Photo: Getty Images
Alex Iwobi: End product. Photo: Getty Images

Sam Dean

Considering how few home-grown talents are thriving in the upper echelons of the Premier League, it remains curious that many Arsenal fans are unwilling to savour the rise of Alex Iwobi into one of Unai Emery's major attacking weapons.

Iwobi joined Arsenal when he was at primary school, rising through the ranks to become a mainstay of the first team and a regular for Nigeria. There has been no loan move down the divisions and no foray into the Bundesliga as, instead, he has taken a direct route few have been able to follow.

Rather than being heralded as "one of our own", though, Iwobi is still to convince large chunks of the Arsenal support of his worth.

There were even some jeers from the away end when he was substituted in this stodgy victory at Huddersfield Town, where the 22-year-old had given Arsenal the lead with a back-post volley.

If Iwobi is wondering what more he needs to do to win over these observers, the first step is to answer the seemingly endless questions about his end product.

He has been working with a data analyst this season (this is the first time in his career he has been given the opportunity to do so) to improve his decision-making in the final third, and the goal against Huddersfield will certainly help in that regard.


There is no doubt that a return of four goals and four assists from 32 games from this campaign falls short of top-level attacking numbers but it is already an improvement on last season, when he scored three. What Emery wants from him now is more "calm" in the decisive moments. A missed chance in the second half, racing in on goal, showcased his inconsistency.

"He is young," said Emery. "He has a big commitment. He needs to improve, tactically maybe also, some things, but above all he needs to be calm with the ball in the attacking third, to have more assists and create more possibilities to score."

Despite the jeers, Iwobi remains a long way from being the primary concern for Arsenal. That prize goes to the defence, which continues to exude an air of nervousness. Huddersfield had not scored in 597 minutes of football before Sead Kolasinac toed in a late own goal, and the worrying truth is that the home side could easily have had two.

Arsenal remain the only side in the Premier League without a clean sheet away from home this season. "We have to work on this because the defence, for me, is the most [important] thing to enable us to get back into the top four," said goalkeeper Bernd Leno. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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