Arsenal disappointingly went out of the UEFA Youth League on Tuesday, losing 2-0 away against Anderlecht, but the experience was a good one for our young players.
There’s little doubt they’d have looked even better with all of our young talents available, but such is life in the youth team that when players impress they move up to join Arsène Wenger’s squad.
One such player this season has been Alex Iwobi, who appeared in four of the UEFA Youth League group stage games before he started to become a permanent fixture in first team plans.
“Every now and then we have had players who have attracted attention but I think the one who has succeeded most is Alex Iwobi, who is with the first team now,” head of the Arsenal academy Andries Jonker told Arsenal Player. This season has seen Iwobi make his full debut for the Gunners, starting three cup ties. He’s also featured in the Premier League and the Champions League off the bench, and made his Nigeria debut off the back of an impressive pre-season with the Gunners.
Scoring twice against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Youth League back in October, he’s come on a lot in a short space of time.
“He played at home against Bayern Munich, made two very nice goals and was great for the team. Since then we haven’t seen him because he’s with the first team and that’s what it’s all about.
“Alex is incredibly motivated, dedicated, willing to work and open to listening. He is always trying to improve himself. That makes him a perfect player because, with the talent he has already, he can continue to develop. That’s what’s happening at the moment.”
Now 19, Iwobi has made huge leaps forward this season and further exposure to the talent in the first team squad will only help him. 19 is pretty late to emerge from the academy as a candidate for the Arsenal first team, but if Iwobi stays driven there’s no reason he can’t build on what he’s already achieved and nail down a place in Arsène Wenger’s thoughts.