Alex Iwobi‘s success in 2016, boosting him into the first team, has taken head of our academy, Andries Jonker, by surprise.

The Dutchman, who came to north London from Wolfsburg in 2014, admitted that some surprises in football, especially when teaching at a youth level, aren’t always positive. It must be intensely crushing to put so much time and investment into young players who, for whatever reason, don’t reach the potential you knew – or at least thought – they had. Alternatively, injuries can ruin careers before they’ve even taken off.

Fortunately, Alex Iwobi has, according to Jonker, exceeded what the coaches dreamed of. The 20-year-old is surprising everyone.

“He’s the example of a good player who has not been identified by anybody as a potential first-team player,” he said.

“Many, many people seem to think you have to recognise an under-nine as a potential first-team player.

“When you spend a long time in youth football, you understand that you will never know.

“There are positive and negative surprises, but Alex is one of those boys who has continued to work hard, and kept his commitment and dedication no matter what has happened.

“In the end he made it and he has been a big surprise to everyone at Arsenal but we all love it. He’s surprised us all.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 02: Alex Iwobi of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Watford at Emirates Stadium on April 2, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Iwobi burst into the first team due to injuries to Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and soon proved why the boss had made such a good decision. His performance against Barcelona away, despite the result, was that of a player far beyond his 19 years (at the time). However, there were numerous people on weren’t surprised at all. People who had been watching his youth appearances and knew the potential he had. People who were positively giddy at the thought of him starting for our senior team.

Has his success really been that much of a surprise? To many maybe, but some knew what he could do long ago.