Alastair Grant/Associated Press
It might be controversial to include a player who has made only a handful of appearances in an Arsenal senior shirt. However, Alex Iwobi is steadily becoming an increasingly familiar presence in the matchday squad.
At the end of December, he made cameo appearances against Southampton and Bournemouth. January saw him start the cup matches against Sunderland and Burnley, as well as emerging from the bench in the Premier League match at Stoke City.
On every outing last month, he impressed. It’s telling that in the two cup games, Iwobi was entrusted to play in the No. 10 role. More senior squad members were available to take up playmaking duties, but Arsene Wenger clearly felt Iwobi had the creativity and calm required to thrive in the demanding position.
Per David Hytner of the Guardian, Wenger said of the young Nigerian:
His decision-making is spot on and his awareness is very interesting. He’s a boy who, two years ago, not many would have said: ‘This will be.’ He develops very well. He’s very clever. I like the timing and the quality of his decision-making. He always turns where you want him to turn and he plays the ball where you want him to play the ball. He’s very interesting.
Those are the terms in which Wenger also discusses such luminaries as Mesut Ozil. It’s that intelligence on the ball that makes Iwobi, 19, such an exciting prospect.
Ozil himself isn’t included in this list, having had a relatively quiet month—perhaps Wenger saw this period as an opportunity to afford him some rest, as the German played just three games in the course of January.
Iwobi is still miles away from ascending the heights Ozil has hit this season, but he seems to have the raw attributes required to make a go of it. It will be intriguing to see what role he plays in the squad between now and the end of the season.