Alex Iwobi would probably, unfortunately, go down as the most unpopular Arsenal player this season, amongst Arsenal fans. This is a shame, as just two seasons ago he was a bright, 19-year-old spark, willing to make diagonal runs and unsettle defences with his quick feet. What happened to cause such disillusion among an increasingly fickle fanbase?
There’ no doubt that his performances have been sub-par this season, but it is difficult to put a finger on an Arsenal attacker who has gone above and beyond in 2017/18. His passing and intelligence on the ball can be called into question, but his natural ability with the ball at his feet is as good as any 21-year-old in the league.
His goal scoring ability and end product is what often gets called into question, particularly when compared to the likes of Joel Campbell, a winger regularly sent out on loan from Arsenal. Indeed, during Campbell’s only full season at the club, he contributed to an impressive 5 goals in 20 appearances, at a rate of 0.25 a game.
Compare that to Iwobi, who has contributed to 15 league goals in 58 games over three seasons for the Gunners, at 0.26 a game. Both players have a similar playing style, cutting in from the wing to impact the play, relying on quick feet and a drive towards goal. Both players contribute similar numbers in attack, yet Arsenal fans have a clear favourite.
Silence the Critics
This, as much as anything, describes the difficulty of being an Arsenal player at this time, the fans always want what they do not have. Campbell is terrific, but Iwobi is as good, if not better, and is four years his junior. He needs continued support from the manager and fans if he is to reach his potential.
A man who can empathise with Iwobi is Aaron Ramsey. Even after recovering from a horrific injury at the age of 20, he came back and made 70 league appearances over the next two seasons. Despite this, fans were ready to see the back of Ramsey, citing his poor end product and lack of ball retention.
It was then in 2013/14 that Rambo hit 10 goals and 8 assists in the league, along with some stellar performances in the cup competitions. He had powered through injury, fan discontent and it was clear that he had worked on the training ground to improve his game.
It’s a Team Game
There should be work from three sides to squeeze the best out of Iwobi. The fans should get behind an exciting academy product who clearly has talent and should be applauded for it. Iwobi himself should get his head down and keep working hard to turn himself into a more complete attacker like Mkhitaryan or Ramsey.
Finally, Wenger, or whoever the next Arsenal manager might be, should continue to support this young star. He has bags of talent, and it would be criminal to let that go to waste because a loud crop of fans need a scapegoat for a collectively poor season.