The factors behind Alex Iwobi’s resurgence at Everton

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When Everton paid Arsenal an initial £28 Million for Alex Iwobi in the summer of 2019, lots of eyebrows were raised, the general perception was that they overpaid, and rightly so.

Iwobi at the time was a 23-year old squad player for Arsenal, with flashes of talent here and there but no real consistency or end product, 11 goals and 17 assists in 100 premier league games for the Gunners spanning 4 seasons proved that.

Alex Iwobi in action during his Arsenal days

Those are not the kind of stats that come to mind when you think of a £28 million attacker, but Everton clearly didn’t mind, they splurged and believed in his potential to grow into something more at Goodison Park, he didn’t, at least not in his debut season.

Alex Iwobi getting unveiled by Everton after signing from Arsenal

1 league goal in 25 Premier League appearances for the Toffees last season, despite the club doing everything to get the best out of their investment, playing him in 3 different positions, Left Wing, Attacking midfield and right wing, all to no avail.

After that underwhelming first season, it looked like Iwobi was destined for the exit door at Merseyside, especially with the impressive business carried out by Carlo Ancelotti last summer, including marquee signing, James Rodriguez.

James Rodriguez signed for Everton last summer

He wasn’t included in the squad for the opening day win away at Tottenham, and was a substitute in 6 of the next 7 games, starting only once, a 4-2 win against Brighton in which he notched an assist.

An opportunity presented itself when Seamus Coleman got injured on international duty, leaving Everton without a fit senior right full back, a situation Carlo Ancelotti handled with a change of tactical approach.

Sheamus Coleman got injured playing for the Republic of Ireland

Everton switched to a 3-4-3 formation with Iwobi occupying the right wing back role, and he impressed in the 3-2 win away at Fulham, breaking forward at will and giving the toffees an additional attacking threat in a way that Sheamus Coleman never could.

With Iwobi in Everton’s current set up, we have seen the formation evolve from 3-4-3 to a 4-4-2 as the game progresses, especially when they’re on the break, Richarlison leaves the left wing and tucks in alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin, giving them more ammunition in the box for when the crosses come in.

Ancelotti has tried playing natural Center Back, Ben Godfrey in the right full back position to allow Iwobi a more attacking role as a right midfielder but it just doesn’t work quite as well as playing the Nigerian as a right wing back.

Perhaps Carlo Ancelotti borrowed a leaf from the book of fellow Italian manager, Antonio Conte, who had also previously transformed a struggling Nigerian winger into a top right wing back.

Conte did it with Victor Moses at Chelsea, he needed a right wing back, with the transfer window already shut, he had no choice but to look inward, and what he found was a player who was not good enough to start as a winger for Chelsea, but somehow thrived in the false 2 position, helping Chelsea win the league in the 2016/17 season.

Victor Moses in action for Chelsea in the 2016/17 season

Iwobi seems to be going through that exact same path and probably even better individually than Moses. He’s primarily a number 10 so he passes better than Moses, more skillful and faster, and looks like he can only get better.

Alex Iwobi showed he could offer value in a way no one else saw coming, and he now seems to have the full trust of his manager, having played in 8 of Everton’s last 9 games, all as a starter, lasting the entire duration of the game in 5 of those.

He has also been able to add consistency to his game, something that has been missing his entire career. May be not in terms of stats, those are still poor, but in terms of his performances.

Everytime Iwobi has filed out for Everton this season out in his new found role, you know what to expect, a solid performance with buccaneering runs, the occasional cross and tackle and an extra attacking presence when the team needs it.

Iwobi in action for Everton

Although his end product still needs a massive boost, he should have more than 1 goal and 2 assists this season, especially since his expected assists is at 1.71, he’s not been helped by the finishing ability of his teammates.

His other stats do look good though, 310 completed passes out of his attempted 377 means he has an 82% pass completion rate, quite impressive.

He’s also been able to hold his own on the defensive end and contribute to a lot of the Everton wins, completing 17 successful tackles out of 26 attempts, a success rate of 65%, not bad for a someone who’s not a natural defender.

Alex Iwobi and Carlo Ancelotti

In summary, the main reason Alex Iwobi has gone from fringe to key player for Everton in the space of a few months is his ability to grab his chance and offer value where the coach needed it, the new found consistency and stability he brings allows Ancelotti to trust him.

 

 

 

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