In the last year Alex Iwobi has gone from reserve team star to an established Arsenal first teamer. Making his Premier League debut on Halloween 2015, the 20 year old’s stock has been on the rise ever since.
This time last year Iwobi had played just over a minute of Premier League after making his league debut off the bench away to Swansea City. A year on, he started for Arsenal at the Liberty Stadium and was a contender for man of the match. Forever known as “the nephew of Jay-Jay Okocha,” Iwobi is starting to make a name for himself in football.
While Iwobi didn’t technically score or assist vs Swansea he had a shot deflected in for the second goal and a cross deflected in for the third. He also played a big part in the fourth goal with a dribbling run that showed his close control and strength before playing a through ball for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whose cut back was deflected toward Alexis Sanchez to turn home.
Above is a statistical radar of Iwobi’s 2016/2017 season through January 5th created by @fussballradars. The radar shows Iwobi’s three biggest strengths: creativity, dribbling, and ability to keep the ball. Iwobi makes 1.9 key passes per 90 minutes which is 15th in the league among players with at least 800 minutes played, according to Whoscored.com. Among players 23 years old or younger with at least 800 minutes played he ranks third, behind only Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain.
Iwobi’s dribbling numbers aren’t quite as impressive as his key pass, among players 23 years old or younger with at least 800 minutes played he ranks 11th, but it is still a strength of his. His 86% pass completion percentage is impressive, particularly for a wide player on a team as expansive as Arsenal. The fact that Iwobi’s pass completion percentage helps show that, while he’s a good dribbler, he is not an out and out winger, he’s more of a wide playmaker.
Looking at Iwobi compared to other high quality young players and he compares reasonably well. He leads the quartet of himself, Raheem Sterling, Anthony Martial, and Memphis Depay (from 2015/2016) in both chances created and shots inside the box per 90 minutes. While these four aren’t all the same type of player, it’s still good to compare Iwobi with the other top players of his age group. He’s not far and away better than the rest, in fact it could be argued he’s not even top two in that group, but he does compare like he is in that upper bracket of young players in the Premier League.
Iwobi isn’t a world beater, but for a player that was playing in Arsenal’s reserve team a little over a year ago, that’s okay. For a 20 year old, Iwobi looks very promising and has had a good start to his career as a first team player. Whether he will be able to keep up the good start to his career or not remains to be seen, but there is no reason to think he’ll fall off based on how things have gone so far.