When Alex Iwobi burst into the first team at the later part of the 2015-16 season, he was an exciting fresh young talent. As the time has gone on, and Iwobi has become a more regular fixture of the first team, the shine on him has worn off.
I still believe that he is a talented young player and that he must still be given time to fulfill his enormous promise. One of the things that I think that his development really illustrates is that progress as a soccer player is not linear, with steady gains every season, but something that sees a lot of fits and starts. This can be frustrating for fans, but it is something that is very important to keep in mind with young players.
One of Iwobi’s biggest skills that has been apparent thus far is his ability to be involved with the buildup to play. In his first taste of action with the first team in the Premier League, he was quickly one of the leaders with Arsenal in xG Buildup and Offensive Value Added. These stats capture more subtle contributions to the attack that the traditional scoresheet style stats.
In 2016-17 Iwobi more than doubled his previous League minutes. His stats in this season were roughly in line with his debut season but with a slight decline in his creative numbers. His xG Buildup and Offensive Value Added numbers still showed a player very good at helping the team attack.
This is probably the most frustrating season Iwobi had, at least in the eyes of most fans. This is his third season of regular first team minutes and, with him entering his 20’s, most people were expecting him to be able to take a step forward.
That big step forward never came, but he did produce another very strong season similar to what he had done previously while adding an additional 400 minutes on to his previous high.
This season, the scoresheet stats show a marked improvement. His goals per 90 is at 0.18 up from 0.15 last year, with his assists per 90 at 0.35 this season up from 0.24 last season. But the underlying stats still show a player that is performing at roughly the same level.
One of the interesting things that perhaps can explain some of the change in his stats is that the role that he is playing has changed in the Unai Emery system. Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal were a much more patient probing side to create offense, while Emery prefers that Arsenal play a more direct style.
With the way that the current squad is built he plays a very important role. Arsenal are short on natural wide players, making him an indispensable part of the team.
This post originally ran on The Short Fuse