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Departing Ramsey shows template for Iwobi's growth under Emery

15:17 GMT 26/01/2019
HD Iwobi Ramsey Arsenal
The Welshman was superb vs. Chelsea as the defensive No. 10 that Emery wants, and that is the role the Nigerian must master to become indispensable

COMMENT   By Solace Chukwu   

If there is little to celebrate about Arsenal's first season under Unai Emery, there now at least seems to be some form crystallizing. 

True to type, the results from the Gunners' last two games have been wildly contrasting: a creditable, energetic performance in victory over Chelsea was followed on Friday night by a deflating, potentially damaging defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup.

However, in spite of the variability of outcomes, as well as another set of potentially debilitating injuries in defence, the process is clearer than it has ever been since the Spaniard took the position. The industry and high tempo, played with a high defensive line and verticality, seem to be the tenets upon which Emery intends to build.

Allied to this is the role that Aaron Ramsey occupied in both those games, with equal distinction. For so long it seemed that he had been a victim of the uncertainty over his future, but with that sorted, the Welshman has been restored to the side and tasked with interpreting the no. 10 role in a peculiar manner.

Against Chelsea, he was crucial in nullifying passing hub Jorginho, and also made aggressive central runs when the pair of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made movements into the channels.

Against United, he pressed the centre-backs alongside Lacazette, and drifted wide to combine with the wingers. It would appear that his stamina and enterprise have come to define the team's whole approach.

Arsenal | 2018-19 stats

That makes it all the more difficult to understand quite why Ramsey is being allowed to leave the club on a Bosman transfer at the end of the season, but no matter: there is some good coming of it.

If for nothing else, his performances seem to offer the perfect template for Alex Iwobi to follow.

The Nigeria international finds himself in a peculiar situation at the club, due to the inscrutable clash of personalities and ideology that has frayed the relationship between Emery and Mesut Ozil.

There is undoubtedly something there, however much both parties argue otherwise, for it is not altogether easy to understand quite why such a high wage earner does not feature more frequently.

Alex Iwobi | 2018-19 Premier League stats

Whatever the kernel of the friction may be, what is clear is that the German playmaker's elfin styings do not mesh with his manager's conception of the forceful, aggressive no. 10 that creates by disrupting.

The result of this is ceaseless speculation; his high wage is an inconvenience, but there is the sense that there is little future beyond this summer at Arsenal for Ozil.

And so Iwobi finds himself in an excellent position, as the spot behind the centre-forward is set to open up.

He has seen, in practical terms, both what Emery wants and does not want from his nominal playmaker, and must seize the opportunity to meet that need.

While at United he played wide in the left, and looked full of invention and running, he may be the biggest beneficiary of Arsenal's latest contractual snafu. The Gunners, skint now they may be, will almost certainly go into the market in the summer, with a new No. 10 high on the priority list.

So, between now and the summer, there is a window of opportunity for Iwobi to audition for the role.

He has already the physical attributes to carry the ball over distances, to occupy the right spaces and he is conscientious enough to fulfill his defensive briefs. He will need to add to that the same aggressive runs into space that are Ramsey's trademark, and be more decisive in finishing actions.

Interestingly, Iwobi's club career so far has been about him stepping up when opportunity comes calling.

In the second half of the 2015/16, he rose to prominence following injury to Ozil, and essentially has been a part of the furniture at Arsenal ever since.

There can be no denying his potential, but he was never anointed as a 'next big thing'. He simply has made himself useful at every turn.

This, however, is his biggest challenge to date: give Emery what he wants, and he could make himself truly indispensable.

Typecast as a wide player, he risks getting lost in the shuffle as the club reinforces in various positions over the next couple of transfer windows.

The ball, now, is firmly in Iwobi's court.