You can hardly name a starting 11 for the Nigeria these days without including Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi. Such is the talent and influence of the Lagos born forward, Iwobi has become a key member of the Super Eagles squad at just 22 years of age.
Iwobi was handed his debut at club level by former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in 2015, scoring his first two Premier League goals that same season in matches against Everton and Watford. The Nigerian has gone on to establish himself as an important player for the Gunners, earning praise for his pace, skill and vision.
Following the departure of Wenger in the summer of 2018, there were fears that the Nigerian international would be a peripheral figure under new manager Unai Emery. However, having sat out the first few matches of the season, Iwobi has since become an important player under the Spanish boss.
Iwobi has been a consistent performer for Arsenal this season, the Gunners have not lost in their last 15 matches when the 22-year-old has played a part. He forms part of a potent attack alongside the likes of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil which is sure to be beneficial for his development.
On the international scene, Iwobi made his debut for Nigeria in 2015, coming on as a second half substitute in a 2-0 friendly defeat to DR Congo in Belgium. It was clear to those watching that the then 19-year-old was a special talent and it was only a matter of time before he became a mainstay in the team.
Iwobi was included in the provisional list of 35 players for the 2016 summer Olympics but was not part of the final 18-man squad.
Being the nephew of legendary Super Eagles midfielder Jay Jay Okocha, Iwobi undoubtedly has talent in his blood. The question was whether he would fulfil his promise and follow in the footsteps of his great uncle.
Iwobi appears unperturbed by the intimidating shadow of his uncle and seems to be revelling in the added expectation it brings. Recently drafted into the midfield from the wing, the youngster seems suited to the new position as his skill and incisive passing is a major weapon in the team’s style under manager Gernot Rohr.
Iwobi was pivotal in the Super Eagles qualification campaign for both the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The Arsenal star played crucial roles as the team progressed to both tournaments with matches to spare.
Nigeria appear to be building for the future with several young players in their squad. Iwobi embodies this drive for youth and he will hope to lead the new generation to success in the coming years.