“Arsenal’s youngsters are not good enough.” Those were the words of a certain Arsenal legend about the Gunners last week. They were words that Emmanuel Petit may regret within the coming years. And how do you respond? With a first Premier League goal of course.
In a player’s career there are certain moments which will stay with you forever. For Alex Iwobi, that moment came on Saturday as he banged home his first Premier League goal for to revitalise his side’s title aspirations. Remember Leicester and Tottenham fans, Arsenal can still win the title as well.
Shoot takes a look at the young Arsenal starlet who could go on to emulate the careers of former Gunners youth products such as Jack Wilshere, Ashley Cole and Martin Keown.
Where did it all start for Iwobi?
It may come as no big surprise that Iwobi was brought into a football family in May 1996. His father loved football, but did not play professionally. His Uncle, in contrast however, did. Sam Allardyce described Jay-Jay Okocha as his greatest ever signing as he led the Trotters to European Football and their highest finish in the top flight in over a decade; at the time Iwobi had just turned eight. Hard to believe that he, in just 11 years’ time, would be a key figure for one of England’s powerhouses.
Iwobi also possessed a talent at the game and it was no big surprise that he was recruited into the Gunners’ academy while still in Primary School. Steadily he progressed and one thing that helped was the quality of his team-mates with current Hull City loanee Chuba Akpom in Iwobi’s age group; the two being very good friends at the Hale End academy.
What happened next?
After signing school boy terms at the Premier League outfit, Iwobi became a regular within the Under-21 side at the start of the 2013-14 season and made an instant impact, scoring one of Arsenal’s four goals in the UEFA Youth League fixture against Marseille at the Marcel Cerdan, as well as an early assist in his debut in the Under-21 League fixture against Stoke. After an inconsistent end to the season, the following campaign was where Iwobi made an impact, captaining the Under-21 side on six occasions during the 2014-15 season as the Gunners finished fourth. The highlight of the season, however, was appearing on the bench for the Gunners’ 4-1 Champions League win against Galatasary in September.
How has he made the break into the first team?
Despite being away with the first team in September 2014 in the Champions League, he began to build relationships with the first team during pre-season. He featured on the tour to Singapore where Arsene Wenger’s men won the Barclays Asia Trophy thanks to a 3-1 victory over Everton, as well as also scoring in the Emirates Cup in a fixture over Lyon.
His Premier League debut came on a Halloween to remember for the youngster as he feature from the bench for the Gunners in a fixture against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium as he replaced Mesut Ozil.
Since that dark and overcast day in South Wales, Iwobi has featured in games at St Mary’s, the Britannia Stadium and even Old Trafford in the Premier League; elsewhere he made his Champions League debut at the Allianz Arena when he replaced Oliver Giroud in Arsenal’s 5-1 defeat over Bayern Munich and also was a shock inclusion in Arsene Wenger’s starting XI for the fixture at the Nou Camp against Barcelona
How big of a shock was his goal at Goodison on Saturday?
It came as a shock to many when Iwobi scored his first goal for the Gunners in their 2-0 demolition over Roberto Martinez on Saturday. But why? Iwobi has been consistent at Under-21 level and Wenger’s team selection on Wednesday against Barcelona shows that the Frenchman trusts the young forward and is likely to feature over the remainder of the campaign.
Why is he so dangerous?
At the age of 19, Iwobi possesses all the attributes to make him a top Premier League player within the future. His pace can frighten defences, and he can also finish well. A good team around him will make sure that he keeps his head and be the next starlet added to the illustrious list of Arsenal academy graduates.
Super Stat: Despite Iwobi featuring on six occasions in the Premier League this season, the 2-0 victory over the Toffees on Saturday was his first ever Premier League start.