Arsenal academy graduate Alex Iwobi has burst onto the scene and has been reminded by the club where it all began. The Gunners posted on Instagram a picture of the rapid forward signing for Arsenal back in 2003 as a seven year old.
Iwobi, now 19, looks comfortable on the big stage having impressed when facing star-studded Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday before scoring his first senior goal for the club in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Everton. More after the cut…
On Monday Arsenal’s Instagram posted the picture of Iwobi 13 years ago, with the Nigerian international wearing the away shirt from the 2004-04 unbeaten season.
with the caption, ‘It’s been quite a week for @alexanderiwobi – here he is signing for #Arsenal, aged seven, back in November 2003. #YoungGun #Academy #Iwobi #Gooner.’
Iwobi, having signed a long term deal with the club in October last year, has made 14 appearances for Arsene Wenger’s side so far this campaign and has recently managed to displace Theo Walcott on the right flank. The Nigerian, who is the nephew of Jay-Jay Okocha, was praised by Arsenal legend Thierry Henry on Twitter following his strike at Goodison Park.
‘Hard work pays off. Well done @alexiwobi you deserve it. #COYG,’ posted Henry.
The Gunners prodigy was thrilled to score his first goal for the club and thanked fellow forward Danny Welbeck for his influence. ‘It is not bad, I’m enjoying the moment,’ Iwobi told the club website. ‘I’m just happy to help my team and that is a positive so we will take that into the next game.
‘It is a dream playing with him (Welbeck). He gives me confidence, he is helping me out and gives me advice.’
— Alexander Iwobi (@alexiwobi) March 19, 2016
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has also praised Iwobi for his rapid progress in the senior team. ‘He benefits from his talents, intelligence and attitude,’ Wenger told the club’s Arsenal Player. ‘He has been practising with the players since the start of the season and he has been growing in contact with these players and he is learning quickly from them.’
Iwobi was born in Lagos and has recently been the subject of an international tug-of-war between England and Nigeria. He has now committed to Nigeria after gaining caps for England’s Under-16, 17 and 18 teams.
Gunners fans were given a glimpse of Iwobi’s obvious talents during pre-season, when he was a surprise inclusion in Arsene Wenger’s touring squad to Singapore, before he netted against Lyon in the Emirate’s Cup in August.
Iwobi is extremely versatile, having played in every position from fullback to centre forward as he’s worked his way through the ranks at Hale End.
Once his academy coaches figured out the best ways to utilise his talents, Iwobi has now settled in an attacking position where his pace, movement and eye for goal can be utilised.
He responded with eight goals in 35 appearances last season for the Gunners’ Under-18 and under 19 sides in the 2013-14 season before making the step up to Steve Gatting’s Under-21 side, where he was regularly captaining the side by the end of last season.
Skillful Iwobi can also boast of quick feet and an efficiency in possession that makes him tailor-made to fit in Wenger’s system, should his recent progression continue on an upward trajectory.
Top of Iwobi’s to do list will be to improve his strike-rate – and the goal against Everton will only help his confidence. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he took a while to settle on a position as he rose through the ranks at London Hale, but if he can consistently add goals to his creativity and clever movement, then he can force Wenger into making him a first-team regular next season.
What are they saying about him?
“I like his team attitude, his movement,” said Arsene Wenger following the 19-year-old’s goalscoring appearance against Lyon in August’s Emirate’s Cup. “We have a game based on movement and speed, and he integrates that very well. He has good power and is usually efficient he scores goals a lot.”
What’s he got to say himself?
Iwobi was understandably very happy to put pen to paper and sign his new deal at the Emirates, saying he felt his hard work had been rewarded.
“I’m delighted to have signed a new contract, especially with a club like Arsenal who are so big,” he told the club’s official website. “I’m happy to sign for them. “I like to think I have earned it. I have gone through a lot with Arsenal so to have a new and improved contract is very good and I’m happy to have earned it. “I have had ups and downs. As I was growing up I had a lot of downs but as I get older things just keep getting better and better. “The ultimate goal is to break into the first team and play as many games as I can.”
So pleased with Alexi's performance this afternoon. Delighted he got his first premiership goal.. So proud of him. Wel-done Ojiogwu
— Jay-Jay Okocha (@IAmOkocha) March 19, 2016
Iwobi’s uncle is former Bolton Wanderers and Nigeria star Jay-Jay Okocha.