Player Profile - Alex Iwobi

Arsenal’s Nigerian Starlet

Personal information
Full name: Alex Iwobi 
Date of birth: 3 May 1996 
Age: 19
Place of birth: Lagos, Nigeria
Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) 
Playing position: Forward 

Club information
Current team: Arsenal
Number: 45

Youth career
2004–2013: Arsenal

Senior career
2013– Arsenal 15 Appearances, 2 goals  

National career
2011–2012: England U16 7 Appearances, 1 goal
2013: England U17 3 Appearances, 0 goals
2013: England U18 1 Appearances, 0 goals
2015– Nigeria 3 Appearances, 0 goals  

Arsenal’s prodigy Alex Iwobi has emerged from the youth system to provide a tremendous boost to the Gunners, as Arsene Wenger and his men make one final push to claim the Premier League title. The teenager has impressed for Arsenal's Under-21 side this season and fans were given a glimpse of his talents in pre-season when he featured on their tour to Singapore and then in the Emirates Cup, where he netted against Lyon. 

Arsenal handed a new 'long-term' contract to Iwobi in January, as the Gunners showed their faith in the 19-year-old forward's potential, and it looks to have paid off with two consecutive Man of the Match performances – the first against Everton in a 2-0 victory at Goodison Park prior to the international break, and then the other came in the 4-0 win against Watford last weekend. The production line at Arsenal’s outstanding academy has continued to churn out first-team players, with Hector Bellerin last year emerging as a first-team regular. Iwobi is extremely versatile, having played in every position from full-back to centre forward as he's worked his way through the ranks in Arsenal’s youth system. Once his academy coaches figured out the best ways to utilise his talents, Iwobi has now settled in an attacking position where his pace, movement and eye for goal can be utilised. He responded with eight goals in 35 appearances for the Arsenal’s Under-18 and under 19 sides in the 2013-14 season before making the step up to the Under-21 side, where he was regularly captaining the team by the end of last season. And with nine goals in theUnder-21s’ final nine games of the campaign, powerful forward Alex was the academy’s form player in the second half of the 2014-2015 season. Skilful, Iwobi can also boast quick feet and efficiency in possession that makes him tailor-made to fit in Wenger's system. 

Wenger has admitted Iwobi's impact at Arsenal this season has taken him by surprise, but the Gunners boss believes he has a special player on his hands. Iwobi has broken into Arsenal's starting 11 in recent weeks after impressing in his Champions League and Premier League debuts against Barcelona and Everton respectively recently while he added to his first league goal against the Toffees with another in Arsenal's 4-0 thrashing of Watford last Saturday. Wenger concedes that Iwobi's rapid development has been surprising to witness, but says the forward - who made his competitive debut for Nigeria during the international break - has been working on his skills all season long. "He [Iwobi] is a creative player and he scores goals as well," Wenger said. "He's a midfielder and a striker at the same time, so he can be creative in his passing."He's very mobile as well, and we have a game based on movement so he participates very well." Naturally a winger, the Lagos-born attacker - who is the nephew of former Nigerian star Jay-Jay Okocha - has recently been the subject of an international tug-of-war between England and Nigeria. He has now committed to Nigeria after gaining caps for England's Under-16, 17 and 18 teams.  Iwobi’s decision to opt for Nigeria having been overlooked for England’s age-group squads for almost two years raises awkward questions about the FA’s setup. Unfortunately for the FA, it isn’t quite so easy to understand the logic when it comes to Iwobi; another story of dual nationality issues and a chain of events that throws up some suspicious questions about how one of the outstanding young talents in English football has now been lost in the system. The fact remains, however, that Iwobi was in the England system and the relevant people – through carelessness, poor judgment or not being proactive enough, call it what you will – might come to regret what has happened when there is clearly the potential for him to be an international player for many years to come. 

Iwobi’s performance for Arsenal in their Champions League tie against Barcelona a couple of weeks ago supplied the hard evidence why Wenger preferred to have the 19 year old in his team at the expense of more established players. Since then, the teenager has retained his place in the starting line-up, earning Man of the Match performances at will. Yes, these are early days, but Iwobi has already shown a level of football sophistication to make observers envisage a rich career.