Alex Iwobi – What’s changed?

Following on from Friday’s post and the idea that youth players may not have that drive and hunger to succeed, let’s take a look at Alex Iwobi who appears to be emerging from his chrysalis like a Giant Swallowtail this season. How has a player who in the past sometimes didn’t appear to know himself which way his feet were going to dance, suddenly be staking a claim for a starting spot in our first choice eleven?

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Alex came to this country at the age 4 as his father sought a new start in England. His blood is rich in footballing gravy with the magnificent Jay Jay Okocha, his uncle.

Alex Joined Arsenal while still at Primary school aged 8.

At not too far off 12 stone and a shade under 6 feet tall, Alex is a fairly big old unit to have such twinkling feet. He made his debut on 27th Oct 2015 in the League Cup and his Premier League debut 4 days after, as a late sub. Alex’s first Premier start came against Everton on 19th March 2016 and was capped by a splendid goal which featured a run from the halfway line.

Iwobi’s career at the Home of Football has flattered to deceive so far. He has made respectable appearance numbers in the past two seasons without ever really establishing himself a permanent niche. Though, it has to be said, those two seasons weren’t really Arsenal’s finest in recent decades.

In May 2018 Arsene Wenger announced he would be leaving the club, and Alex Iwobi described the great man as an “inspiration” and stated it was sad but also exciting. That ‘exciting’ reference has been echoed by everyone who follows the Gunners, as an overdue, new era beckoned.

This season has begun really well for BIG17 with 5 Prem appearances, 4 assists and the equaliser against Chelsea up to now. He started against the chavs, West Ham and Fulham, and came on as a sub against Everton and Watford.

In a 4-3-3 Alex usually plays left side in the front three. The recent Arsenal formation employed by Unai Emery in the game at Craven Cottage appeared to suit him; playing more as the outside left midfielder in a middle 4. Unai Emery seems to hold the Cockney Naija boy in high regard and this season could be a monster for the lad.

So what’s changed about Alex this season? All round, his decision-making has improved, with far less running up blind alleys. Although his finishing is still a little rushed with a tendency to lift his head and spoon the ball over the bar, his passing has been top notch. He’s far less likely to give the ball away but also doesn’t seem afraid to turn and drive forwards rather than just lay the ball back from whence it came.

Has Unai been encouraging him to take players on and thus create that vital opening needed to open up massed Premiership defences? The youtube video above amply demonstrates the many tricks and skills Alex employs to beat a man.

He also seems more tactically aware defensively, covering a tremendous amount of ground up and down that left flank. Although tackling is not his strong point, much defensive work these days is more about creating pressure on the man with the ball and limiting passing options for the opposition.

This does seem a critical point in Wobbly’s Arsenal career. He could really cement his future at the Gunners by adding great end-product to those glittering, silky skills. Good luck to the lad, he’s definitely the closest we have to a Mr Arsenal.

The change at the top of the Club is having all sorts of trickle down effects and Alex seems to be one of those benefitting.



34 Responses to Alex Iwobi – What’s changed?

  1. mickydidit89 says:

    Oh yes, definately enjoyed that read. Thanks Chas

    For this very Mr Arsenalish reason, I’ve always championed the likes of Iwobi and M-N. Of course nothing may come of it, but I believe the dynamic of having one-of-our-own on the pitch brings so much more than a footballer from another part of the globe ever could ie a connection with the supporters and that sense of community you get from players growing up with AFC

    I thought Iwobi was showing signs of progress towards the very end of the Arsene era for the simple reason that he was getting more consistent game time.

    This is continuing under Unai, as you say, but I always think Unai has a clearer vision of a player’s optimum position and role within the team structure

    On a side note, I’m really looking forward to seeing how, and where, Unai deploys M-N

  2. chas says:

    Yes, Maitland-Niles plus the new manager are an exciting combination/prospect.

  3. chas says:

    Drop the bass!

  4. mickydidit89 says:

    I think there’s another dimension to this youth squad thing

    It must be much harder to break through when at a top club as you’re simply deprived of regular competitive football. Youngsters at any top prem. club will benefit from training with great players, with the best coaches and with all the associated top notch facilitities, but inevitably, without sufficient loan spells, their progress will suffer from lack of game time

  5. LB says:

    Top read, thanks.

    You sum the whole thing up above Chas. In short I think the role that he has been asked him to perform this season has been much more clearly defined.

    I don’t really agree with the idea that he was improving towards the end of last season and one of the main reasons for that was that he was getting more game time. To me he was lost and was typical of one of the reasons for AW’s decline. He seemed to play players for the sake of bringing youth through rather than to simply win a match.

    Walcott, Wilshere, Chamberlain, the list is long.

    This is the absolute opposite to the Chelsea model; their policy seems to have been to win trophies first and bring youth through second. This obviously applies to Man City as well. The reason for bringing up Chelsea yet again was that I mentioned them in the week and feel I should explain myself.

    One of the criticisms of AW from ex-players was that roles were not clearly defined. Ex players would say that they were told to (and I paraphrase) Go Play. Whether this is true or not I am not sure but it seems to have been the case with Iwobi. For much of last season he looked lost and was on the pitch in my opinion when he just simply should not have been.

    This season Iwobi is being deployed for shorter bursts, be it for the first 45, the first 60 or the last 20 with clear instructions as to what is required and it is working but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he has also been hooked off at half time when it hasn’t.

    Unai Emery and Maitland-Niles (Con) Ohhhhh exciting, the penny hadn’t dropped until I read your comment Micky.

  6. LBG says:

    Excellent stuff, Chas, and I am inclined to agree with LB regarding the “director” qualities of Dick, in giving Wobbly a clearer role. ‘Scare the shit out of their defenders’.
    His speed of foot movement has even shown him capable of taking the ball off the toes of attacking right sided opposition down in the left hand defensive third. But I agree about the tackling technique because his body is always open looking for the chance to break.
    Roll on Monday week.

  7. chas says:

    Mo is obviously unaware that Swaziland has a new name.
    I wonder what their national anthem is like and whether they have a new one too.

  8. GunnerN5 says:

    Morning all, thank you for a great read Chas.

    IMHO the main change is that he now (appears) to have a specific position and he’s concentrating on what is needed and instructed. I always found that playing in a set position allowed me to more fully understand my role and improved my teamwork. As the game progressed my knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition also increased.

    Under AW players were expected to interchange positions frequently during the game – which is far more difficult than one might expect.

  9. GunnerN5 says:

    I walked into my house to find my wife gone and a note nailed to the wall.

    ‘We have your wife, if you want to see her alive again we want £200,000. Do not contact the police, we are very determined. Await a phone call.’

    They weren’t joking about being determined, I’ve had 36 missed calls from them now.

  10. GunnerN5 says:

    Looks like I’m talking to the trees – again!

  11. LB says:

    No GN5

    I am just a small hedge

  12. fred1266 says:

    Eddie has Alex actually proven us wrong

  13. GunnerN5 says:

    You need to be more specific LB are you a small bush or an investment to reduce the risk of adverse movements in an asset.

  14. LB says:


    It took me a moment.

  15. chas says:


  16. chas says:

  17. chas says:

  18. VP of Oz says:

    dont be surpised if Arsenal Womens go the whole season undefeated. Joe Montemurro’s teams have a history of doing it.

  19. chas says:

  20. RC78 says:

    Iwobi is no more than a bench player at AFC. I think he is one player that can help us at the end of games and during Cup Games but starting him in the EPL or the EL is not an option for me. The guy is now physically matured but he is really inconsistent and his decision making is just very lousy. He is very frustrating because you can see that he has real talent – it s just that he does not seem to be able to make it happen all the time. Shame really.

    Against Fulham – I thought that Miky was sensational. He should have scored but he actually created a few goals thank to his passes before the assists. He is the one who creates the breach in the opposition. So between the two – I d always start Miky

  21. RC78 says:

    The one player that just slotted in nicely at AFC is L. Torreira. The guy just managed to make the midfield his. Now if we can get Guendouzi and Ramsey (or Miky) to just gel with him both defensively and offensively, we will have quite a midfield.

    Cech – Bello, Sokratis, Holding, Monreal – Ramsey, LT, Guen – Ozil, Auba – Laca

  22. LBG says:

    First Mesut, now Kos. If only we could persuade a few more to retire from International football!!

  23. Ants says:

    I’m still laughing at Bob Mortimer, Chris Rea and an egg in the bath

  24. chas says:

  25. chas says:

    On Monday 14th October 1940, a 1400kg semi-armour piercing fragmentation bomb fell on the road above the northern end of Balham tube station, south London, forming a crater into which a double decker bus then crashed. Miraculously, no one aboard was killed

  26. chas says:

  27. LBG says:

    Morning Chas
    Never seen a better weight of pass player than Denis. The second one to RVP seemed to have back spin to hold it in perfect position.
    Still have memories of the old Liverpool Street Station and those black on white platform signs.

  28. LBG says:

    Piss off TH! Smith-Rowe will break through this season for the Arse, with a bit of luck.

  29. LBG says:

    £200,000, £185,0000 per week! Still too much Aaron and you can’t keep saying, ” I thought we’d agreed a new contract” but the they took it away. Should have signed long before!
    Anyone want Loftus Cheek? No thanks, for me. AM-N, Smith Rowe, Ouzi all have as much potential and never got tainted with blue!

  30. chas says:


    (to fill the Monday of another week without an Arsenal game)

  31. Zanos says:

    The opposite is happening with iwobi he started of bad then getting better now martial was great and died down a bit

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