In Alex Iwobi’s first full season as a first team regular, fans have been debating whether he should be one of those regulars. Since breaking into the first team last season the 20-year-old has been a constant fixture in Arsenal’s first team, which at first seemed to be a very good addition. Making very impressive appearances in cup games before scoring on his Premier League debut against Everton, Iwobi certainly made his case to be a regular starter but is he good enough for Arsenal.
Going into this season the majority of people would have thought that Iwobi’s position on the left wing would be occupied by Alexis Sanchez but the Chilean has spent a lot of this season up front. With Sanchez being Arsenal’s only recognised left winger at the time Iwobi would have to fill in the void there. Which raises the question of why didn’t Arsene Wenger strengthen this area if he knew he would move Sanchez centrally.
So far this season Iwobi has played 34 games in all competitions, scoring 4 and assisting 3 which doesn’t seem impressive. But is he ready to be such an influential player for an Arsenal side that hopes to challenge for a Premier League title at the age of 20. Playing so frequently, putting in quite average performances does make you wonder whether he is ready to be a regular in the starting 11 at Arsenal. With playing week in week out comes the expectation to perform well and justify why you’ve been selected but it could be said that the pressure and expectation may be too much for such a young player.
However, Arsenal fans will hope the past doesn’t repeat itself with Iwobi as they have seen a young academy product be overplayed at The Emirates before which could have been the reason for the stunt in this particular player’s development.
Of course I’m talking about Arsenal’s own Jack Wilshere who in the 2010/11 season made 42 appearances for Arsenal at the ages of just 18/19. Playing so many games at such a young age seems to have taken its toll on Wilshere who has suffered with many long term injuries since then, with the first coming in the pre-season to the 2011/12 season.
Six years later and Wilshere is now out on loan at Bournemouth looking to keep fit and get regular game time but could this be what the future holds for Iwobi too. It might be feared that with Wenger continuing to pick the Nigerian week after week this might wear him out for the future. Playing in 87% of Arsenal’s games this season it could be a possibility that he is being overplayed as well as worn out this season.
Another question that comes up when talking about Iwobi is whether he is Arsenal’s best option at left wing with the likes of Sanchez and Lucas Perez in the squad. It’s fair to say that Arsenal fans wouldn’t expect to go up against European giants like Bayern Munich and Barcelona away from home with Iwobi starting but this has been the reality for the last two years in the Champions League Round of 16.
With Sanchez being one of Arsenal’s best players it would be hard to imagine him being left out of the starting 11 like against Liverpool on Saturday, but where he lines up for the Gunners is up for debate. It doesn’t seem to matter to Sanchez himself as long as he’s on the pitch. Having scored 17 goals and fashioned 9 assists this year in the Premier League he has been Arsenal’s star man but whether he is Arsenal’s best option as a striker is also up for debate.
Seeing as Arsenal do have natural strikers at the club such as Danny Welbeck, Lucas Perez and Olivier Giroud it would probably make more sense for them to start there and move Sanchez back onto the wing where he is still very effective. Perez is another player who is more experienced and probably less of a risk to start at left wing. Furthermore, unlike Sanchez and Iwobi who like to come off their wing when playing, Perez is able to beat his opposing full back and whip crosses in from the left, which may suit strikers like Welbeck and Giroud who have an aerial presence a bit more.
So maybe Iwobi shouldn’t be played as much as he has been this season considering the other options in the team and what happened to Jack Wilshere but whether Wenger chooses to change anything will be seen in the coming weeks.