By: Jerry Okugbe
There currently is no Nigerian player who successfully divides opinion as much as Alex Iwobi. None can be so brilliant one week and becomes a shadow of himself the other. It is the inability to perform at his best week in week out that draws large criticism to this fine player. The Nigerian international has played under four different managers (excluding Duncan Ferguson’s brief time managing Everton) at club level to date. None have successfully figured out his best position. He has been used on the left, the right, and through the middle. That could be seen as versatility, but in Iwobi’s situation, it is most likely due to his erratic displays in any given position. Iwobi played some of his best football under Unai Emery at Arsenal in his last season at the club.
He had his highest returns for both goals and assists in a single season, 6 and 8 respectively.
Stats don’t always tell the whole story, and for a player like Iwobi, that is the case. He was unplayable at times in the 2018/2019 season. That is whenever he decided to turn up, and when he did, most of the Gunners attacks involved him. His displays against both Chelsea and Liverpool that season is a testament to what the player can do. Iwobi seems more settled at the national side. In Gernot Rohr, he has a coach who fully believes in him and recognizes his worth. But the national team starts won’t come by solely for the fact the manager trusts him. It is based on merits. Alex Iwobi is at a crossroads in his Everton career. The club’s summer signings have thrown his future into doubt. The attacking midfielder was omitted from the opening-day squad win against Tottenham. If you look back to Alex Iwobi’s breakthrough into first-team football under Arsene Wenger five years ago, one can judge that his development since hasn’t quite gone as expected. Time is ticking on the playmaker to finally shine and at 24 he is no longer the youngster with huge potentials.
Arsenal was happy to receive £35m in exchange for their academy product. The move to Goodison Park hasn’t panned out so well since. In just his second season in Merseyside, he has been rumoured with a move elsewhere. Iwobi needs regular game time to build on rhythm at this stage in his career. He has played for a top-six levelPremier League club. Everton falls in the bracket below and that is not a level too high for Iwobi. Still, he hasn’t found his feet there. He hasn’t come of age. For a player, the calibre of Iwobi moving to a bottom half EPL club playing to survive makes little sense. This is someone with experience at the European stage. A change of scenery would be better. A move outside England would make perfect sense for Alex Iwobi.Ligue 1 makes up the top five leagues in Europe but the gap in quality there is steep. The Italian league is getting more competitive and interesting these days. However, it is unlikely that Iwobi would get constant playing time at a club fighting for the Scudetto and I don’t think his style of football is the best fit for Seria A. He could very well settle in Spain. Spanish football is known for its high technical quality. Iwobi is a technical player. He could shine at top half clubs like Valencia, Real Sociedad, or Real Betis. Villareal where Unai Emery his former coach is could suit him more, but I think the Bundesliga would be best for the player.
German football draws similarities to the one played in England. The pace, intensity, physicality, and technical level are of similar standard hence Iwobi would not have to adjust much. Young players from the English leagues have gone on to thrive there or are thriving there. Bayern Munich is out of the discussion, Dortmund and RB Leipzig is a step too far Iwobi. Below this three you would find Bayer Leverkusen, Gladbach, Wolfsburg, Schalke 04, Frankfurt and Hoffenheim. All these are exciting teams that regularly compete for European places. Alex Iwobi would slot right into any of these teams and be a key player. It’s still early into the season and Iwobi could as well stay in the blue half of Merseyside and fight for his place. Nonetheless, I feel that in the direction Everton is heading to under Carlo Ancelloti, chances would only become tougher. A move abroad for a fresh start could unlock the potentials of this undoubtedly talented player.