I have been thinking about this blog since Alex Iwobi’s delightful performance for Nigeria against England.
In that game he came to the fore in the second half.
From the pass he played in the lead up to his own delightful finish, he ran England ragged, dictating the game.
During that game, I turned to a friend and asked “if he was English, would he be going to the World Cup”. The consensus was probably not, but then Gareth Southgate did pick Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
It was not just the play in the led up to the goal, but his entire performance in that second half.
Given a freedom that he does not get at Arsenal due to Mesut Ozil, he drifted around the pitch becoming Nigeria’s version of Arsenal’s German.
He dropped deep to pick up the ball, was on the left wing, the right win, and in the middle. He did not shy away from dictating play, the same way Ozil does for Arsenal.
Without the liability to defend, or track back, he revelled in the freedom putting in one of the best performances I have seen from him.
Moving forward to the World Cup, he will be given the same role for Nigeria. The freedom of being the creator. The main man.
Often short of confidence, playing like he is in awe of those around him at Arsenal, almost as if he does not believe he deserves to be in the red & white, he looked comfortable in the Green of the Eagles.
This World Cup could make him believe in himself. Beleive that he does belong. That he is good enough. It might lead to the end of his timid performances.
If (and it is a big if) he is one of the break through players of the World Cup, dragging Nigeria through to the knock out stages, he will return to Islington a different player. A more confident player. A player that finally realises how much talent he is.
It is easy to forget that he is still just 22. He is 4 months younger than Loftus-Cheek.
Whilst the media and fans are still talking about the on-loan Chelsea mans potential, they are writing off Alex Iwobi.
The same people saying that Loftus-Cheek should be given a chance next season to compete for a place in the Chelsea squad are also saying that Alex Iwobi should not be anywhere near the Arsenal squad.
Now I know some of you will immediately say “but Loftus Cheek was at Crystal Palace” and you are correct to bring that up.
Being at Palace is why Loftus Cheek got through move defensive work than Iwobi.
In terms of attack, Loftus-Cheek was Crystal Palace’s main creator, whilst Iwobi was usually number two (or at times number 3) on the pitch behind Ozil and Alexis Sanchez or Henrik Mkhitaryan.
I wonder how many more goals and assists Iwobi would have got if play went through him at Arsenal like it will for Nigeria?
It is also interesting to note that Alex Iwobi got the same amount of goals (3) and just to assists less (5 v 7) than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Nigerian also had vastly better passing than his former team mate.
Iwobi averaging 48 completed passes per 90 minutes at 87% completion rate against Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 31 passes at 81%.
So Iwobi – who many will say had a poor season – had a similar season in terms of output as OXlade-Chamberlain – who many said had a good season; His best season ever.
I am not saying he will become world class, nut he is still young and still has some improvement ahead of him, but he could be one of the break out players of the World Cup. He wil lcertainly go into my Fantasy Football team.
If he is given a staring role for Nigeria this summer, he will come back to Arsenal a more confident player.
He is more than good enough to be back up Mesut Ozil, Henrik Mkhitaryan and perhaps one more.