Why Unai Emery could be the key to Alex Iwobi’s ascension

So much was expected from Alex Iwobi when he broke to limelight in 2015.

Being the first Arsenal academy graduate to do so in a while, the pressure mounted. Apparently, it proved too heavy. More often than not he went off the rails and don’t return. Under Unai Emery, however, things could change.

Iwobi has endured a turbulent two years as a professional. Blessed with superb skills, enchanting vision and alien technique those weapons were enough to conquer the world. Tuck in versatility, trickery and link-up play, then what you would get is a well-rounded playmaker. Everyone else not named Iwobi perceived these traits.

The Nigerian rarely utilized them. Although the quality was always there, it came in patches, disturbing to the eyes. Just when you think he’s finally reached his finest moment, he then switches off quickly in subsequent games. Besides the usual tricks and skills, he appeared utterly clueless without any purpose.

Typical Arsene Wenger, he kept the faith. The Frenchman went as far as experimenting across several positions in the final third. Right. Left. Centre. Yet fruits didn’t sprout. Assuming Le Professeur had his way, he would have tried him in goal too.

While departing, most faithful must have hoped Wenger took Iwobi along. Emery, however, had other plans. A fan of the Nigerian, the Basque-born instead offered an extension with the promise of mining those raw talents.

“I’m very pleased Alex has signed a new contract with us,” the Paris Saint-Germain boss said. “He is a great example of a player who can succeed from the Academy through hard work and I look forward to working with him and our other talented young players in the squad.”

As promised, Emery offered Iwobi the opportunity to prove his worth. Before being sidelined with an illness, the Nigerian started against Chelsea and West Ham United. In both, he made telling offensive contributions with a goal and an assist respectively.

He returned to the starting line-up in Thursday’s 4-2 win over Vorskla in the Europa League. Playing on the left flank, albeit with a license to drift into other spaces on the pitch, Iwobi was Arsenal’s most prominent and consistent attacking threat throughout the time that he was on the pitch.

He provided a lovely assist for  Pierre-Emerick  Aubameyang’s first goal, sliding a beautifully weighted pass across the back of the Vorskla defence for the Gabonian to meet the first time. He also created three other openings that weren’t buried.

It isn’t just about his goal contribution, though. Iwobi seems to be enjoying the game once again. He is playing with confidence and a sense of optimism. Emery’s intensity and high pressing style clearly suit the Nigerian. It could get better as long as the Spaniard avoids a home return soon.

Written by Toby Prince

Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby

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