Alex Iwobi could be Arsenal’s unlikely internal solution to their Mesut Ozil problem.
Internal solutions aren’t always the most popular with fans, but it’s worth considering the benefits of promoting from within. Sometimes, when you have a young talent who could flourish with more game time, it’s worth investing in that player, instead of bringing in a shiny new signing.
Alex Iwobi is one such player.
The 21-year-old was an unexpected yet welcome discovery towards the back-end of the 2015/16 season, impressing many with his technique and intelligence. He’s been in and out of the side since then, held back by an inconsistent end product and blocked by strong competition, but he remains a gem worth polishing.
Stylistically, Iwobi is closer to Tomas Rosicky than he is to Mesut Ozil.
Much like Rosicky, his strengths are his ability to combine with other players and drive Arsenal’s play forward, either with sharp one-twos or by carrying the ball himself.
He doesn’t have Ozil’s finishing touch or vision, but can nonetheless be important to the fluidity of Arsenal’s play by always being available for a pass. He bring more dynamism to the team, perhaps at the expense of end product.
His lack of end product cannot be dismissed.
Iwobi’s numbers do not make for impressive reading. Ozil, meanwhile, is a chance creating machine. Even during his worst performances, he frequently creates opportunities for others. Arsenal can’t just simply rip that out of their side without considering who can and will pick up the creative slack.
However, Arsene Wenger clearly feels Iwobi has the potential to produce more.
It was only just after the 2-0 win over Brighton that Wenger said he should be posting double figures for goals and assists. This isn’t an unrealistic expectation. Iwobi’s off the ball movement often finds him in good goalscoring positions, but he so often fails to find the right finish.
Players like that can so often be frustrating, but the only way they get better is through consistent first team action.
For all the shooting practice Iwobi likely does in training, nothing will replicate the pressure felt during a game, and nothing does more for the confidence of a goalscorer than goals.
Time and patience will be required for him to hone that skill.
With fans so demanding of major trophies and Arsenal under pressure to deliver, the question remains if we can afford that time to Iwobi.
A new signing, one whose game is more refined and mature, and who can make an instant impact, is tempting for that very reason. It’s the shortest solution to a problem that exists in football.
Yet, there aren’t many Mesut Ozil’s floating around in world football that come in straight away and deliver the same quality.
In that case, the club has to look within, and take the chance on one of their young talents.
Someone, say, like Alex Iwobi.