Tag Archives: iwobi

Iwobi Needs To Push On Next Season

Alex Iwobi divides opinion like he divides opponents legs.

Our very own ‘Nutmeg Prince’ has been a first team fixture since 2015, but speak to some and his name will be one of the first names on the departure list this summer.

Our very own Academy product has failed to grow his contributions since Arsene Wenger stated in his last season that the Nigerian’s final product was the one thing that needed to improve. Wenger mentioned that the attacker had everything else in his locker, but the most decisive part was still the one weapon Iwobi really needed to hone.

And the stats don’t lie.

Of course, numbers don’t always give true perspective on a player. They offer a certain viewpoint and shine light on certain facets of a player, but like holding a gemstone to the light, you won’t see every part until you look at it from all angles.

The same applies to Alex Iwobi.

Iwobi Pic

 

The Nigerian scored three times and claimed six assists in 35 appearances in the Premier League this season. The season before saw the same amount of goals and one assist less.

Now this plateauing of numbers could be attributed to a new coach, new system, new tactics, training etc. It will at least have a contributing effect, but another variable is that Iwobi still hasn’t drastically improved his final ball – or final decision.

It is abundantly clear that Iwobi has the touch and the tell-tale attributes that comprise the makeup of a great attacker. At times we have seen him produce slide rule passes and touches that bewitch his opposing number.

We have also seen him make the wrong decision time and time again.

The good thing is, this can be taught. Remember that Iwobi is still nowhere near his peak and so is still developing.

The saving grace for Iwobi too, is that we have no one in the squad that adds what he does.

His particular skillset is based on confrontation with opposing fullbacks and producing opportunities either through a pass or creating them for himself. He goes past players like they are mere apparitions at times, and he does it better than anyone in the team, like it or not.

So he has a place as he can change games. He seems ideally suited to an impact sub role at the moment, but he isn’t far away from unlocking his true potential. The problem is patience.

It seems like Iwobi has been on the scene for some time, but this was only his third full season in the first team. Yes, he should have a better final ball right now, but there aren’t many his age – Hudson-Odoi is an exception – that bring to the table what he does.

Iwobi is on the precipice right now. His natural ambition will be to want more than to be a squad player at Arsenal – but that is where he is right now. He has the key to unlocking so much more in his locker, but he must listen to those that know better. The extensive array of backroom staff, his teammates who have gleaned worldwide experience. If he can learn from others then there is hope of seeing Iwobi push on.

Next season sees a fresh challenge for Iwobi. With Reiss Nelson, Jo Willock and Emile Smith-Rowe coming back into the fold, he has more competition for his spot. It is clear that he will have to not only do more than what he has done this season, but also he has to act as a big brother to those younger than him. That is the essence of a team, and Iwobi has a role to play.

The Nigerian has the world at his feet, but the next step is the most precarious. Fingers crossed we see the new and improved Iwobi next season.

Emery and His Summer Plans

It is irrefutable that Unai Emery has helped us make progress this season.

It is also undeniable that he has made errors that have cost us.

The Spaniard is not infallible, and our suspect away form and some questionable decisions when it comes to rotation have been the difference when it comes to certain results this campaign.

It is very important that Emery isn’t hung, drawn and quartered by his mistakes, and while the jury may be out for some, his approach has certainly added more than it has subtracted.

How does Emery help us go one step further though? Next season should see us go into the season with a top 3 position firmly in our sights. With Manchester United still rebuilding and unsure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s long-term suitability, it should put us on a firmer footing than the Red Devils.

Then there are Chelsea and spurs.

The Blues will be suffering from a transfer ban so cannot strengthen. They have Christian Pulisic to come in and perhaps some of their loanees could come in to fill a gap, but with Eden Hazard’s head turned by Real Madrid and no avenue to replace such a talent, Chelsea could easily be weaker than this season. Then there is the small matter of Maurizio Sarri and if he will even be at Stamford Bridge next season.

Spurs will be thankful to keep hold of Mauricio Pochettino, but transfer funds will need to be freed up if they want to continue their upward curve. Despite all of the brass band sounding and the fawning from the media, they are further away from the title than ever and their trophy cabinet is still emptier than Chris Sutton’s IQ.

The stage is set for us to move up and re-establish ourselves amongst the elite, perhaps even put some pressure on the top2 – although the gap is a sizeable one.

It all hinges on what Emery does in the transfer market – well, he and his new Director of Football that will be coming in.

His first summer at Arsenal saw more success than failure when it came to additions. For every Stephane Lichtsteiner, we had a Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno. Sokratis too, has enjoyed a solid first season.

We need more though.

 

Xhaka and Iwobi

We have the large aperture created by Aaron Ramsey’s departure to fill. That requires an intelligent attacking midfielder who has a wide range of passing and is blessed with a deft touch for intricate link-up play.

That won’t be cheap.

Then there is the small matter of our defence and midfield.

Our club captain is in his latter years, as is Nacho Monreal. That is two integral parts of our first choice defence with a significantly lower chance of contributing the same amount of matches next season.

Yes, we do have Rob Holding returning, and with Calum Chambers coming back into the fray, we POTENTIALLY have the makings of a solid core. It is still untested though, and Emery will run the rule over them as a duo in pre-season.

If it doesn’t work, then that is another dip into the transfer coffers – an amount that according to hearsay, is not sufficient enough for two world-class additions.

In midfield, in Torreira and Guendouzi we have our near future looking decent, but two midfielders doesn’t make a midfield. We need alternative options to enable Emery’s famous switching of approach, we need able backups as the season wears fitness thin and inflates fatigue.

In that regard, we can see that Mohamed Elneny isn’t quite up to scratch, and Granit Xhaka has already made noises about seeking new pastures. Much will hinge on Champions League qualification on whether the Swiss star stays, but he isn’t the complete player we need.

So we could maybe need two central players to come in, one more established to push the first team and another prospect that can help our team in years to come.

Our attack is in decent health. If we had players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan hitting the heights their obvious talent allows them to, then we would be all set for next season. But the Armenian and Alex Iwobi now need to step up and make a difference far more frequently than they do currently if we are to push on next season. If they fail to do so, then Arsenal is a stage that isn’t best suited to them.

 

Furious Emery

 

The potential for quite a busy summer looms large on our horizon. One that involves deeper pockets than our short arms can reach, and some tough calls on players futures.

If we are to move up and get back into contention, Emery and his backroom team will have their phones on during their summer break. Excellence doesn’t rest.

Kolasinac Deserves the Spotlight

Unai Emery has brought with him many changes since he was drafted in to herald in the post- Wenger era.

 

Many of them were not his choice. Backroom staff such as Raul Sanllehi were brought in slightly beforehand but are very much part of the new dynasty that Emery is meant to hone into success.

 

Others are very much stamped with the Spaniard’s touch. Matteo Guendouzi is part of the new breed for Arsenal, but some of the existing players have transitioned to the new methods far better than others too.

 

One of those is Sead Kolasinac.

 

The burly Bosnian has been the stampeding horse on our left hand side, so often providing the outlet our play needs when we are stemmed in the final third. Kolasinac has also been perfectly placed for Emery’s experiments with the wing-back system – five technically at the back, with the left and right backs flying forward to also provide the width sorely needed by our team.

 

It requires excellent stamina and the decision making that allows the player to gauge when to fly forward and when to sit back.

 

The stamina has never been in question, but the ability to judge when to assist his attacking brethren is sometimes lacking.

 

On more than one occasion we have seen a gaping maw on our left hand side that has been vacated by yet another Kolasinac rampage. The truth is though, that unless we have a full-back that is of the ilk of Bixente Lizarazu, Maldini and our legends of Dixon and Winterburn, we will never truly eradicate ourselves of that occasional weakness on the flank.

 

Mistakes will be made, no player is infallible. Kolasinac though, has at the very least, truly optimised his exertions in the final third.

 

Sead+Kolasinac+Alex+Iwobi+Arsenal+Training+cSbi_GK_tKrl

 

His unstoppable runs to the byline have seen him create more chances this season than any other Arsenal player. That is quite some feat with the creative talents on show at the club. The next best player in terms of opportunities made?

 

Another vilified player in Alex Iwobi.

 

Both have combined well and offered something different. True, both have their failings, but they are at least justifying their spots in the side.Iwobi is enjoying his best ever season in terms of return – at the time of writing he has four goals and six assists – yet both do not enjoy the favouritism that some players enjoy. The adulation never quite reaches them, but take them away and what do we have?

 

A team completely devoid of thrust, instead choosing to pass sideways. Like it or not, our left side has been predominant in terms of where our goals come from.

 

Kolasinac especially, has done himself proud whenever he has donned the shirt this season. Compare this to last season when he was very much a fringe player, lurking in the shadows created by the reliable Nacho Monreal.

 

This campaign has seen the player that terrorised the Bundesliga come to roost at the Premiership, and we are benefitting from it. The Bosnian is one of our dangermen – and we should recognise how good he has been, rather than choose to focus on the one mistake he makes every two or three games – which is far fewer than most.

 

Kolasinac has been fantastic, and long may it continue.

 

Replacing Rambo

Aaron Ramsey has shown his hand.

The discussion surrounding the Welshman and his long-running contract saga centres on the alleged contract offer being rescinded by the club. There are scant details available, other than David Ornstein declaring this via Twitter.

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All we are left with is knowing that Aaron Ramsey will almost definitely be in another jersey in the summer. Possibly even in December if our club want a transfer fee.

So, where does that leave us? Much depends on where Ramsey is best utilised.

The Welshman is most often listed as a central midfielder, but it is quite obvious that Unai Emery doesn’t see him that way. Every selection has seen Rambo slotting into the attacking three behind our sole striker.

Ramsey’s main strength is probably his late runs into the box to snaffle goals. To maximise this, he is better utilised further up the field. Sure, he can tackle and track runners, but Ramsey gets goals, so attack is his best option.

Now that he is departing the club though, do we need to recruit again? Will the Rambo-shaped hole we have derail any progress that Emery is forging? Does the Spaniard need to get on the phone to Sven Mislintat to find a suitable replacement?

No. Our squad is stronger than we think – and Ramsey leaving doesn’t have to impact us at all.

Since Emery has taken over, we have seen very little of the Ramsey we have adored. The attacking midfielder has been sorely lacking in the end product department, but someone has stepped forward and can plug the gap left by Ramsey. How do we know?

Because he has been doing it this season already.

Alex Iwobi has seemingly found his feet again after a shaky season in Wenger’s last campaign. The Nigerian has been fleet of foot, but crucially, his decision-making has not let his other talents down. He has been quite excellent, and would easily deserve  a starting spot ahead of Ramsey.

With Henrikh Mkhitaryan already waiting for an attacking spot to call his own, we have a fair amount of depth. Plus, Emery is known to chop and change his tactics, so we may opt for three central men – in that case, bargain find Matteo Guendouzi has shown that even inexperience can’t dim blazing hot talent on the pitch.

Ramsey will always hold a special place in our memories. His heroic fightback from his horror injury, his epic season of 2013/14, his two winning FA Cup goals – Ramsey has given ten years service.

Yes, it is mystifying what Ramsey must be demanding, but we must concentrate on the surface view, and how Rambo will be leaving us – and whether we will suffer.

It seems like we are well covered. If Emery has the faith in both Iwobi and Guendouzi, then the game time accrued will push them both on leaps and bounds.

Thanks for the memories Rambo.

Smith-Rowe and Kid Gloves

You know those nights out that you have been planning for weeks? For once, the whole gang have been corralled into being free for this one night. Everyone will be there, we all know the score, and we’re heading to a very exclusive venue.

It’s going to be one of those events we will all remember, it will live long in the memory.

The trouble is, the weight of expectation crushes it – as well as your pal Terry who was well and truly trolleyed at least three hours before you even reached the club

You’ve built this up sky-high, and it means that your expectations will never match up to the actual night – leaving you with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Well, the same goes – mostly – for young footballers.

These bright young things burst into our field of vision with a searing white heat, emblazoning their name upon your retina and your memory. Your first glimpses of these starlets set the bar high, and you know that they have the potential to be even better.

These teenagers are nowhere near their peak years, and yet they’re already mindblowingly good. They take the ball and they confront defenders, impudently asking them questions that season upon season of cynical fouling and defensive coaching hasn’t quite destroyed yet.

It is a breath of fresh air, and thanks to the wonders of social media, their name and their display soon spreads, like a Russian plot behind a Trump campaign. Soon, they appropriate a phrase, one that is often the nadir of any hopes they – and you  – once had of seeing these prospects fully realising their talents.

They become ‘The Next Big Thing.’

At Arsenal, we’ve had this many times over the years in the Wenger era. The Frenchman had a penchant for finding a diamond in the rough in the hope that a bit of spit and elbow grease can coax out every bit of promise.

Sometimes it worked. Cesc Fabregas was a surefire hit. Nicolas Anelka was a real find. Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi were tracked all the way through the youth systems. Aaron Ramsey was a first-teamer early on, but he has come on leaps and bounds from the fresh-faced teenager that turned down Manchester United to come to London Colney.

There are others too though, that fell by the wayside. Quite a few actually.

For every Anelka, we had a Daniel Crowley. For every Cesc, we had a Jeremie Aliadiere or a Yaya Sanogo.

It shows that talent isn’t everything that comprises a top-flight success. The amount of careers that started at a major club and the majority of their professional lives were spent in lower leagues is evidence enough to show how tough it is to make that next step from starlet to bona fide first teamer.

It is why expectations should be scaled back a little.

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It is why Emile Smith-Rowe should be cherished, but avoid the heavy burden of our heavy breathing as we salivate over what could be.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide was in the exact same position only a couple of seasons ago. The Emirates Cup was buzzing as fans were able to catch a glimpse of the player given the moniker, ‘The Jeff.’

Big things were expected, and the rare sightings we had of him and the comments from coaches and teammates were indicating that he was the real deal.

Yet, on the day Emile Smith-Rowe made his first big splash upon our senses, the very same day Jeff Reine-Adelaide had signed a permanent deal for Ligue Un minnows Angers.

Apparently, it was a mix of money demands and first team requests that drove Jeff to move from the club, but either way, it is another player who has failed to reach the heights we know they can reach, at our club.

Emile Smith-Rowe has been making waves for the youth teams since last season, big enough for the discerning Gooner to be aware of his presence. But it was his inclusion in the Singapore squad and his subsequent fantastic solo effort against Atletico Madrid that showed we may have a real gem in our ranks.

It seems that he has the world at his feet, but we’ve been burned before. We should hold back on placing so much emphasis on the development of Smith-Rowe, as Crowley, Reine-Adelaide and others have shown that talent isn’t everything.

If Smith-Rowe shows the same level of intensity and dedication that recent youth converts Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have shown – then Smith-Rowe could well be too dazzling for words.

The thing is though, is it is very uncertain right now. We have no idea what will happen.

All we can do is trust the framework at the club to treat the kid with kid gloves, and his rare forays in cup games are enough to avoid stunting his growth but also enough to let him shine.

We could place far too much weight on the kid, and most likely we will do.

But Smith-Rowe is that good.

Slow and steady everyone.

CSKA Moscow Vs Arsenal: Europa League Match Preview

We travel to Moscow for the second leg of our Europa League Quarter-Final to take on CSKA Moscow again, with a valuable 4-1 scoreline giving us clear sight of the Semi-Finals.

CSKA Vs Arsenal 2nd Leg of our Quarter-Final

The first leg score may be advantageous, but it is not conclusive. The away goal scored by Golovin direct from a free kick was deserved if we are honest, as they caused us problems regularly, usually through the vibrant Ahmed Musa. On a different night they could have had two or three, and it is good evidence that they could score an early goal and heap the pressure on.

With a partisan atmosphere to contend with and the pressure of an attacking team bearing down on us, the night could get messy.

Objectively, we could and should have scored six or seven. We created chances at will seemingly, and our opponents had no answer to the creativity of Mesut Ozil for the majority of the game.

The bottom line for this fixture is that if we attack early on, and we score, CSKA will then need four goals to force extra time.

We need to be on the front foot – especially seeing as the combined age of their defence is the actual age of creatures hailing from the Cretaceous era. We can kill this game off early and then rotate for a tough game this Sunday at Newcastle. We have won three away games in the League all season and we need every resource we have in order to better that.

If we score in Moscow, the game is over.
Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are set to return to the side, and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied, Alexandre Lacazette is our go-to Europa League striker. Granit Xhaka didn’t travel with the squad as he is sick with flu, so Elneny or Jack could start alongside Ramsey.

Two players who have played their way into contention are Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi. their respective displays against a spirited Southampton side last weekend were welcome returns to form for the pair, and they almost single-handedly rescued us from dropping points. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan out for what looks like the remainder of the season, they both are in with a shout of a start.

David Ospina is still out, so Petr Cech will take the gloves instead of our designated cup keeper. Aside from these changes, the lineup pretty much picks itself. One piece of good news for the coming weekend though, is that the red card Mohamed Elneny received in our win over Southampton last week has been rescinded by the FA, and it dissolves the three match ban the Egyptian was due to suffer.

CSKA will have to attack to salvage anything from this tie, but an early goal changes the whole game. We’ll need to be on our game at both ends of the pitch, but we can cut them to ribbons if we need to. Let’s hope we kill their hopes early and save all of us Gooners the coronaries that normally come with a high-stakes tie.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere, Welbeck, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

The Enigma of Iwobi

Seeing a youngster rise up through the ranks to become a fully-fledged member of the first team squad is a source of pride for fans.

Knowing these starlets have been through every part of the club’s setup means they are steeped in the culture of the club – they are almost the same as me and you – aside from being blessed with a football at their feet.

Alex Iwobi is one of these players. He has been at Arsenal since a single-figure age, His debut in the first team was an ugly one – the humiliating 3-0 humbling at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup. Much like Hector Bellerin in that respect – the Spaniard also had a baptism of fire in a 2-0 defeat by Borussia Dortmund – Iwobi didn’t let his first taste of the first team sway his resolve.

His rise to prominence as a viable squad member was deserved. He can ghost past players with a swift drop of the shoulder, his ball control can be exquisite and whether we choose to ignore it or not, his final ball is very often the right one and an exhibit of great vision.

I mention ignorance, as this season he has been the subject of vitriol from a portion of Gooners. The comments I’ve witnessed on social media question his inclusion or addition from the bench on every occasion. Iwobi has obviously failed to convince some fans of his worthiness of a squad place.

Is it deserved? Not on this level. Players are in the spotlight and represent something very dear to us all. So if they fail to put in a good shift for the crest, then they are open to criticism.

There is criticism though, and then there is downright negative bias.

Aaron Ramsey gets the same sort of treatment, albeit on a weaker level. It would appear as if Iwobi needs to register a goal or assist in every game in order to sate his detractors, but that isn’t going to happen. His style of play lends itself to involvement in the earlier stage of a build-up as much as it does at the business end.

So, are his stats that bad?

Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka suffers from this to a degree. Xhaka is quite clearly not a defensive sentry, but his weaknesses in tracking runners is detracting from his Premier League-leading passing stats and excellent distribution both long and short. Because he isn’t what many of us thought he should be, that means he’s been tagged as an underperformer, which is simply unfair.

That isn’t to say Ramsey, Xhaka and Iwobi don’t have their faults. Criticism is just as fair as praise. Ramsey too often focuses on attack and leaves his defensive duties like a spoiled kid leaves his vegetables on the plate. Xhaka needs to concentrate more, and Iwobi needs to make the right decision more often, as well as perhaps concentrate on footballing matters a little more.

In a comparison matrix with Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling and former Gunner Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi shines quite brightly – especially when you consider how the team he is playing for is struggling in comparison.

Iwobi has created the second most amount of chances, The second most amount of forward passes and has the highest possession score out of all the participants in the comparison.

Not bad for a player who is viewed by some as nowhere near good enough to wear the jersey.

With our team falling way below the standards expected, the time we used to employ to blood a player in our tactics is far shorter than it was. We have far less patience and we want things immediately, rather than use a modicum of common sense and remember that a young player learns from his errors and needs to make them to progress.

Plus, the comparison above shows that Iwobi isn’t underperforming at all – he is in fact outperforming some players who are judged to be better players than he is. Another startling fact that may illuminate how good Iwobi actually is – he achieved those stats playing in far less games than his opponents. Iwobi has played in 17 games, Lingard 22, Sterling 25 and Oxlade-Chamberlain 23.

So, to surmise, Iwobi deserves his place amongst our leading lights, and he also deserves a bit of expectational pressure. If this is him underperforming, then just imagine when he actually hits a patch of form…

Comparison stats correct at the time of writing.