Arsenal's Alex Iwobi Preparing For Make-Or-Break Season
Published: July 26, 2018
Arsenal's Alex Iwobi Preparing For Make-Or-Break Season
Nigerian playmaker Alex Iwobi is preparing for a make-or-break season as he bids to establish himself as a regular in the Arsenal first team.

The Lagos-born 22-year-old is one of the most exciting talents to emerge from the Gunners’ youth set up in the past decade.

He earned rave reviews in his first campaign in the first team, but struggled for form last year as Arsenal finished sixth in the Premiership.

Competition for places is stiff at The Emirates, but the club clearly believes in Iwobi as it has rewarded him with a new £70,000-a-week, five-year deal.

Now he must make himself an indispensable member of the starting 11.

New Arsenal manager Unai Emery has an embarrassment of attacking riches at his disposal. Record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on fire towards the end of last season, and he should be guaranteed a starting berth.

If Emery wants Alexandre Lacazette on the pitch as well, Aubameyang will likely have to be shunted out wide, which leaves fewer options for Iwobi.

Mesut Ozil is top dog at The Emirates after signing a £350,000-a-week deal in January, and he too is likely to be guaranteed a starting place.

Then you have Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez vying for a chance in the starting 11, not to mention young prospects like Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson.

Emery is expected to favour a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, leaving room for only a few attackers, and Iwobi is by no means an automatic starter.

Many fans speculate that Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Ozil will play in a fluid three behind Lacazette, leaving Iwobi on the bench.

But the level of competition should not daunt him. Instead he should embrace it and prove to everyone why he is so highly rated by the likes of Arsene Wenger and Gernot Rohr.

He has shown flashes of his brilliance for both Nigeria and Arsenal. He is explosive, dynamic and intelligent with the ball at his feet, and he can wreak all sorts of havoc when running at defenders.

His link-up play is strong, he has a good eye for a pass and he knows how to finish. Iwobi just needs to find consistency, and Emery could be the perfect manager to develop his raw talent into something magnificent.

The Spaniard has a strong track record of helping youngsters flourish throughout his career, and he can bring a more structured approach to Iwobi’s development than Wenger managed in his final season at The Emirates.

Emery has already shown Jack Wilshere the door, but this ruthlessness did not extend to Iwobi.

Lazio were interested in bringing Iwobi, but Arsenal rejected the approach and offered him a new deal instead, so Emery clearly rates him.

It is easy to see him breaking into the Arsenal team and holding down a regular place this coming season.

Aubameyang is by no means a winger, and Emery may quickly decide to play him down the middle and bench Lacazette.

Iwobi also offers a lot more pace, thrust and incision than either Ozil or Mkhitaryan in wide areas. They are similar players, both creative maestros, but Iwobi is a finer athlete and he brings a different dimension to proceedings.

If you check out a review and find the best odds on the market, you will see that Arsenal are massive underdogs in the battle to win the 2018/19 Premiership title.

Their first two games are against Man City and Chelsea, and they are unlikely to make a flying start to the campaign.

That should encourage Emery to trial different starting line-ups, and Iwobi is sure to get his chance.

He is an important squad member, but at the age of 22 it is time for him to become a key player for the side.

He has the talent to pull it off, he will get his chances and he just needs to display the maturity and mental strength to take them.

If not, he could go the same way as Wilshere and Theo Walcott, and that would be a shame for such a talented young star.

Igho Kingsley
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