Alex Iwobi says he was the only England youth at Arsenal not to get a professional deal on his 17th birthday after his call-up.

Alex Iwobi of interest to Genort Rohr
Alex Iwobi during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Middlesbrough at Emirates Stadium on October 22, 2016, in London, England.

Speaking on the Nedum Onuoha Podcast (via All Nigeria Soccer), Alex Iwobi discussed how he had to fight for a chance at Arsenal as he approached the upper levels of academy football.

“At U16, I got the call-up from England which was a big accomplishment coming from Arsenal,” Iwobi recalled. “They believe that’s the best academy in England so players should be called up.

“There was a couple of us my age that were called up for England which was good. At 17, everyone in my school year who played for England got offered a pro contract straight away barring me.

“I was the only one that got told that you can take your scholar if you want or you can go elsewhere. That was a challenge in itself, thinking I feel like I’m good enough, I’ve played for England, why am I not getting the same deal as all my other teammates that played for England?

“I overcame that challenge, played on, played on, did my two-year scholar then eventually got my first-year pro then I broke into the first team a year after which was good.”

The timeline of events certainly fits with what Iwobi is saying. Arsenal announced his professional contract in May 2014, shortly after his 18th birthday, a year after when you’d expect.

For example, Dan Crowley was in the England u16s with Iwobi, and Arsenal announced his first professional deal one day after his 17th birthday. Chuba Akpom got his professional deal in the same week as his birthday as well. So you can understand Iwobi’s frustration.

Fortunately for his career, Iwobi channeled that into working hard with the Arsenal youth teams and eventually earning his pro deal, then his debut, before departing for Everton in 2019.