Arsenal recorded a routine 4-0 win against Swansea with one player in particular standing out.
But something else happened in this 4-0 win at the Liberty Stadium, or rather, something else continued to happen. Arsenal scored four goals and one player was involved in three of them. One player who has gone and continues to go under the radar: Alex Iwobi.
On a night when Olivier Giroud scored a tap-in to take his form to five goals in his last five games, and Alexis Sánchez pounced to slap home the fourth and move joint-top of the Premier League golden boot standings with 14 league goals, and Mesut Özil’s made his return from illness, it was the young Nigerian who was at the heart of everything.
Played ostensibly as a No.10 but in reality part of a fluid trio of players behind Giroud as a striker, Iwobi was busy from the first whistle to the last. He moved and darted between Swansea players as though they weren’t even there.
And obviously Swansea aren’t very good – they’re second from bottom in the league for a reason, but Iwobi made them look genuinely terrible. He sliced and diced with ease, continuing what is now becoming an established pattern of play.
His rise into the first team at Arsenal has been lost among the hype of Marcus Rashford, Kelechi Iheanacho and Anthony Martial. And true enough, his has been a less spectacular emergence than those players, but it has been no less impressive.
Coming into an attacking midfield unit that includes bonafide world-class stars like Alexis and Mesut Özil and not only looking confident enough to not turn into a timid sideways passing machine, but dribbling, surging forward and scoring goals? That is incredible.
This afternoon against Swansea, Iwobi was fantastic. His vision was a key part of the long passing sequence that Arsenal strung together before Olivier Giroud slammed home the opening goal. With a brilliant pass completion of 89% despite being a dribbling attacker.
In the second half, however, he really went to work. Arsenal were struggling to put the Swans away despite an obvious dominance. 0-1 is a tricky score, especially away from home. But Iwobi made sure Arsenal had nothing to fear. Finding himself in a wide position on the right, the Nigerian quickly capitalised on a bobbling ball to rifle it at goal.
The ball struck Jack Cork and ballooned over the hapless Lukas Fabianski. A lucky deflection? Sure. But Iwobi’s run was intelligent, staying wide and onside, and his shot was decisive. He didn’t ponder, he hit it hard and low across the face of goal. He made his own luck.
The third goal was again all down to him. Picking the ball up on the left this time, he advanced into the box and squared up to Federico Fernandez. What followed was a couple of stepovers, keeping the Argentine defender at bay, and then blowing by him enough to get half an inch of space.
He then fired the ball across goal with his left, where Kyle Naughton deflected it into his own goal. Again, another own goal, but again it was Iwobi’s sense of purpose that made the difference. His more lauded team-mates were dawdling, but he was decisive.
But Iwobi wasn’t done. Coming in off the left flank, Iwobi was being marked tightly by Naughton who apparently hadn’t had enough humiliation for one day. Iwobi shrugged Naughton off like he was a needy fan trying to grab hold of his jersey as he runs through the mixed-zone.
He then picked a gorgeous pass, threading it in behind Fernandez and allowing Oxlade-Chamberlain to run onto it. He crossed and the ball eventually found its way to Alexis who finished comfortably (and sulked mightily when he was taken off).
4-0. A much needed routine win. After the Bournemouth debacle this was the perfect tonic for Arsenal. The Gunners got back in the saddle and it was all down to the unheralded brilliance of their young Nigerian superstar in the making.
Iwobi was immense, being part of the first goal from the centre, creating the second goal from the right, the third and fourth from the left. Versatility, creativity and above all else: a decisive will to win. Iwobi is under the radar but his quality is bursting over the top.
*Culled from Squakwa