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Alex Iwobi coming of age for club and country

Friday 13th October 2017
Maturity is all about taking responsibility. It entails getting a job done by any possible means. Alex Iwobi isn't there, at least not yet, but the signs are auspicious for the Nigerian.

The breakthrough for Alex Iwobi at Arsenal came two years ago. Giving birth to a certain sense of optimism. A positive vibe that wasn't only felt in north London but thousands of miles away in West Africa. Being the only player since Jack Wilshere to burst into the first team, he received a VIP-like kind of treatment from Arsene Wenger. Yet, it was nothing compared to the demigod status he received back home.

Such a colossal tag came with an equal burden. Iwobi had to deliver the goods anytime he's called upon. And he did that quite remarkably in his first season. The 21-year-old displayed superb attacking artistry; wrecking havoc with his powerful link-up play, technical skill as well as dribbling. Yet one key ingredient was lacking in his game: finishing.

That's not to say the Nigerian was completely useless in front of goal. He actually did hit the back of the net twice and laced a couple for his teammates. Quite a decent return for a rookie you'd agree. But Alex Iwobi never really seemed man enough to take games by the scruff of the neck. Just flashes of brilliance in few matches and that's that.
But it will be rather harsh to have expected more from a teenager. So the pressure piled up ahead of his second season. Though he started greatly, snagging three assists in his first four matches, Iwobi went off the rails yet again. Perhaps Wenger's switch to a back three was the contributing factor as the 21-year-old looked somewhat puzzled by the new system.

Around this same period, he had already garnered seven caps for the Super Eagles with nothing to show. For the first, a reported 40,000 spectators crammed into a 25,000 capacity stadium to catch a first-hand glimpse of the youngster in action for his country. However, they were left utterly disillusioned as their new poster boy failed to lift them against Egypt. Unfounded comparison with his legendary uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha, has since ensued.

While there may be some striking resemblance in their playing style, Okocha started shoving his team's burden much earlier. He scored his first goal for Nigeria on his second appearance, aged 19. That strike qualified the country for their first ever World Cup in 1994. Same at his club. He was the fulcrum of his team's attack and provided that extra spice from set pieces.
Thankfully, there appears to be a noticeable upturn in Iwobi's prospects of late, starting with the 0-0 draw at Chelsea when he stepped in for Mesut Ozil and performed manfully. He followed up that performance with a rare strike against Brighton. That's a player beginning to take responsibility; starting to act like an adult. Even Wenger reckons the time is right for the Nigerian to make that big move to the next level.

That's the sort of impact every manager wants. It was only his second goal in 11 games for the Eagles, yet the magnitude of the encounter and the ease with which he delivered shows he's coming of age.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 


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