Arsenal and Nigeria rising star Alex Iwobi was awarded the African Youth Player of the Year for 2016 on Thursday. The 20-year-old versatile midfielder scored four total goals and added six assists during the calendar year with both the Gunners and the senior Nigeria national team.
Iwobi has hit the ground running since he was somewhat surprisingly included in the senior Arsenal squad during the 2015/16 campaign. Following his Champions League debut against Barcelona of all clubs in March of that season (a match in which Iwobi did not look out of place), the then 19-year-old ended up scoring goals in both of his first two Premier League starts for the Gunners.
Not exactly drastically fast, nor a polished goalscorer (yet), Iwobi is, however, a very talented young player. The former England youth player (before switching allegiances to Nigeria in 2015) possesses a bag full of tricks and plenty of creativity. His quick feet with the ball allows him to create space, even when seemingly cornered by opposing defenders. Versatility is also one of his strong suits. The youngster is usually deployed out on either wing; however, Iwobi can also play in the number 10 role or even as a secondary striker.
After an impressive freshman season with the senior Gunners, Iwobi has continued where he previously left off. The midfielder has netted three goals to go along with three assists at this point of the current campaign. While the Arsenal man may not exactly be lighting up the scoreboards just yet, he does have fairly impressive numbers when compared to other former high-profile Premier League youngsters.
Although Iwobi has yet to really take over matches with his goalscoring ability, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes this will soon change. Speaking after the club’s 2-0 victory (in which Iwobi scored) against Crystal Palace on Sunday, Wenger stated, “People forget he’s 20 years old. I think he had a very good game – on top of that, now he starts to score goals. His quality of pass, of availability, is exceptional for a young boy.”
“I hope that these goals he scores now will give him the taste as well to go where he can finish it off. There are always signs when a guy starts to score goals in training that they’ll come in games, and he has that. Now in training he starts to score goals. I’m sure he will score as well in the games.”
As he gets more and more confidence, there is really no limit to what Iwobi is capable of. There is certainly no reason why the 20-year-old can’t go on to record double digit goals and assists throughout an entire season in the near future.
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