“His decision-making is spot on and his awareness is very interesting,” Arsene Wenger said of Alex Iwobi on January 31. “He develops very well. He’s very clever. I like the timing and the quality of his decision-making. He’s very interesting. I have a hesitation about loaning him because I think this guy could very quickly play.”
With more established lads such as Chuba Akpom and Yaya Sanogo learning their trades in the Championship, the Arsenal manager surprisingly fended off interests from Birmingham City and Reading to keep the Nigerian youngster, who has since proceeded to play every single minute in domestic cup competitions barring the 1-2 defeat to Watford on Sunday.
However, concern over his future arises, with the British core – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott – seemingly taking up his ideal position – right wing – in the starting lineup.
The 19-year-old has featured on the wings on 44 occasions (youth and senior appearances combined) across all competitions, which include the cameo appearance against Bayern Munich at home and the 3-0 League Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
However, against Sunderland, Burnley and Hull City in the Emirates FA Cup this season, he operated in the hole despite never having played as a number 10 throughout his youth career, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott, who showed equal promise as Iwobi currently does during their teenage, displacing him.
Despite being deployed in an unfamiliar position, Iwobi has been phenomenal, earning plaudits from the manager and pundits alike.
The Walcott factor
The media cherishes pointing out to Wenger’s conversion of Thierry Henry into a centre-forward whenever he plays an up-and-coming youngster out of his natural position, but his experiments have royally failed in the cases of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott, whose best positions are yet to be finalised.
Ironically, the English duo is now depriving Iwobi of his right to continue his progress as a right-winger, with both giving their managers no reason to make them first-teamers, thereby relying on cup games to enjoy first-team football.
At 27, chances of Walcott becoming the player he was touted to become are slender, and sanctioning his sale to Liverpool, who enamour getting their hands on English talent in the summer is suddenly imperative as only such a bold move may avoid another Walcott from happening and will help the potential world-class talent in Iwobi enjoy his game.
Should Arsenal stick to paying outrageous wages to Walcott for another season, a loan move to a mid-table club that would not make him the next Serge Gnabry will be pivotal. With less and less talent coming through the academy, the London club should deal with Iwobi carefully.
O-Posts readers, what do you make of his future? Do you agree with Wenger’s decision of playing him behind the striker?
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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