Lining up for a full Champions League debut on Wednesday, Alex Iwobi must have felt like he made it.
Having never started a Premier League or Champions League game for Arsenal, or for anyone else, the 19-year-old stepped out onto the Camp Nou pitch to play against the likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta.
A strong performance was incredibly encouraging and the young midfielder has received more praise from Arsène Wenger on Friday.
“I personally rate him,” the boss said in his press conference. “To throw him in a game like I did on Wednesday night means I have great belief in his qualities.”
Able to play in almost any midfield position, Iwobi has impressed during his chances in the FA Cup this season. After runs of patchy form from Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott, Iwobi now deserves a shot to show fans what he’s capable of.
As far as Wenger is concerned, he is clearly excited and tempted to play Iwobi again when Arsenal visit Everton on Saturday.
“I think he is a creative player, an intelligent player,” Wenger added. “He has a strong team attitude and good humility. At 19 years of age it’s a very important quality and I think he can go very far.”
After Wednesday’s performance it’s hard to disagree with that. However, there is the nagging doubt that Wenger won’t want to push a young player too far too soon.
“I’m a little bit cautious because I don’t want to make stars of players who have played two games.”
Patience is vital with such a young player and Arsenal fans have to understand he won’t always perform well, he won’t always be selected, he won’t always deliver. What we can count on Iwobi for is sensible unselfish play. Still a teenager, that alone is something to get excited about.