Opinion: Alex Iwobi shows signs of confidence under Unai Emery
Co-Expert of Pain in the Arsenal, Andrew Dowdeswell provides an in-depth look at Alex Iwobi's performance in the 2-0 win over Lazio
"Iwobi, at 22, is coming to the point in his career when he must prove his worth to Arsenal. He has just signed a new long-term contract with the club and is reportedly a player who new Head Coach Unai Emery likes, but there is great competition for places in the positions that he wants to play. He must give Emery no option but to start him. Currently, his performances have not been good enough for that to be the case.
"However, in Arsenal’s final preseason match of the summer, a 2-0 win against Lazio on Saturday night in Stockholm, there were signs that Iwobi is enjoying his time under Emery in this new era at the club.
"Iwobi played on the left of a midfield four — the formation was most like 4-2-2-2 with Iwobi the left winger behind the two strikers, but then shifted to a 4-4-2 out of possession. He was intentional whenever he received the ball, he drove at the Lazio defence time and time again, he beat defenders with his speed, agility and adept dribbling skills and he provided a key outlet in wide areas.
"This is a preseason game, so I will not go too overboard with the praise. But Iwobi certainly showed signs that he was beginning to feel confident in his own ability again. That has always been his issue. Iwobi is a confidence player. When he is feeling sure of himself, positive of how he can impact the game, certain in his ability and production, then he tends to play much better. He does not retreat into his shell. He takes risks. He plays with a swagger. There were signs that this Iwobi was returning to the fore on Saturday.
"This confident Iwobi stems, I believe, from clarity. Clarity in his own talent. Clarity in the system. Clarity in his own role. Clarity in his decision-making, something that has let him down greatly in the past. Look how decisive he was when he received the ball with time and space to think from Reiss Nelson in the build-up to the first goal. This was Iwobi playing with clarity.
"As I said, this was a preseason game. It is a little futile to fully evaluate Iwobi’s performance. But there were positive signs, largely because he was playing positively, with confidence and clarity. Let’s hope that continues as the season progresses."