Following the revelation that Alex Iwobi was out partying early Saturday morning ahead of his disaster-class in Arsenal’s third round F.A. Cup exit at the hands of Nottingham Forest, many expected the youngster to suffer the wrath of Arsenal’s management. They were right in part as Iwobi was fined two weeks wages. But to the surprise of a few, the Nigerian international found himself in the starting eleven against Chelsea.
Whether this may be because Arsène Wenger deemed a fine to be sufficient for a first-time offender or the situation with Alexis Sanchez and a lack of other options meant Iwobi had to start, we will never truly know. Arsenal legends like Ian Wright and Ray Parlour have made it clear they believe the youngster shouldn’t have played. Ironic, considering the culture they grew up in and Ray’s love for telling tales of playing hungover, but that’s neither here nor there. At the end of the day, Iwobi not only played but started against Chelsea and, whisper it quietly, he had his best game in months (embarrassing toe-poke shot aside).
Let’s look at some raw numbers:
2 key passes
6 x dispossessed
2 fouls won
2/2 shots on target (Minus 1 for the embarrassing toe-poke shot)
Now, these aren’t world-beating statistics, but they sum up a surprisingly encouraging performance for a 21-year-old footballer going through a rough patch in his career. He could have wilted under the pressure after the weekend revelations, but he stepped up. The challenge now for him is to continue to build on this. It’s clear he needs to make changes. All the off-field distractions must be eliminated. Partying two days before a game will never be okay for the modern-day footballer and Jack Wilshere gave us insight into his frequent practice of being late and incurring the wrath of Per Mertesacker’s fines. Buck up kid.
Signs are pointing towards Arsenal undertaking seismic changes in regards to player personnel over the near future and as such, there exists a multitude of links to young attackers such as Malcom and Cristian Pavón. Iwobi will know his performances in the second-half of this season will be key to securing his future at the club. Appropriate bedtimes, an alarm clock, and shooting practice will go a long way Alex.