Alex Iwobi is undoubtedly a polarizing player. The Arsenal and Nigeria midfielder/forward suffers regular scrutiny by both rival fans and supporters of the north London outfit.

In fact, he may be the player in the Arsenal team with the lowest approval rating amongst their own fanbase. Yet despite these issues, the 22-year-old player has become a very important asset to the Nigeria national team.

Despite the fact that with zero wins in their last five matches leading into this summer’s World Cup, Iwobi has clearly been their top performer. This is especially relevant considering the African team has solid players such as Wilfried Ndidi, Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa, and John Obi Mikel.

Iwobi may not necessarily be the veteran leader that one would expect, as 10 other players currently in the Nigeria squad have more international caps than the Arsenal man, but he is certainly one of their most important players going into Russia.

As especially seen during their match with England at the weekend, Iwobi was Nigeria’s best player on the pitch. His goal in the 47th minute, a quality finish at that, gave Nigeria hope after falling back by two goals in the first half. Although the Super Eagles eventually lost the game, many fans and pundits took to Twitter following the match to praise Iwobi.


Premier league quality

The Arsenal player also became the first Nigerian to score against England during an international match as well.

Iwobi was not necessarily a huge prospect during his progression through the Arsenal youth ranks. During a period in which players like Chuba Akpom, Gedion Zelalem, and Chris Willock were gaining more attention with the Arsenal U-19s, Iwobi was eventually given a chance by then manager Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman gave Iwobi his first Premier League start in March of 2016 against Everton, and the Nigerian scored a wonderful goal in counter attack to seal the three points at Goodison Park. Iwobi then followed up the impressive debut by scoring another goal in his second career Premier League start.

While Premier League fans tend to dislike Iwobi’s play, the statistics may tell another story. Though not a prolific scorer (finishing is something that the Nigerian youngster does need to work on), he does provide creativity and inventiveness when deployed in the right areas.

This is evident when you consider that Iwobi had more key passes during the 2017/18 Premier League campaign than Jesse Lingard, Bernardo Silva, Aaron Ramsey, Pedro, and Richarlison. In fact, the 22-year-old’s numbers don’t seem as bad when compared to other more well-liked Premier League players.

2017/18 Premier League play

Confidence is certainly key when discussing Iwobi’s game. As with many other creative young players, being self-assured and poised can change fairly drastically from game to game. However, Iwobi’s confidence concerns in particular could be helped by the fact that he is so influential in this Nigeria side.

While their group is difficult, a big World Cup for both Iwobi and the Super Eagles should propel the player forward in his career.