COMMENT By Kunle Fayiga Follow on Twitter
Arsenal will start life without Arsene Wenger for the first time since 1996 when they host reigning Premier League champions Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, they will feature Alex Iwobi, however, after the forward extended his Emirates Stadium stay until 2022.
The 22-year old has been associated with the Gunners first team since 2016, and while Iwobi will surely be delighted at extending his stay with his boyhood club, there are reasons for concern.
Iwobi has played 98 competitive games for Arsenal, but has not been consistent, especially on the flanks, where he has primarily been utilised. Instead, he's typically thrived when played through the middle.
This seems to be his preferred position, something Jay-Jay Okocha remarked about his nephew while on punditry duty during the World Cup.
The Arsenal hierarchy don't seem to agree, and with Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey still at the club ahead ahead of Iwobi in the pecking order, his situation seems unlikely to change any time soon.
Another issue is that Iwobi’s defensive awareness is very low and this led to him fading out of prominence when Wenger transitioned to a 3-4-3.
Iwobi had the chance to fit in at wing-back, but couldn’t do it, contrasting to the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, now at Liverpool, who was able to live up to the task.
Really Pleased To Extend My Contract & Commit My Future To This Special Club. From Under 6 To BIG17 So Many People Have Helped Me. Thank You. Grateful To Our New Manager For The Faith Shown In Me & Our Fans For The Love, Support & Patience. Excited For 18/19 #Gunners pic.twitter.com/CUaEbpEv2B — Alexander Iwobi (@alexiwobi) August 3, 2018
Although new Arsenal coach Unai Emery doesn't favour a back three and the use of wing-backs, Iwobi could struggle to get involved if the Spaniard does opt for this approach.
With Ozil and Ramsey set to play key roles for Emery, just as they did for Wenger, Iwobi might be starved of game time once again in the position he is best suited.
His best chance might thus come on the flanks, but he’ll have a serious battle trying to fight it out with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Danny Welbeck and possibly Ainsley Maitland-Niles, whose versatility made him a favourite of Wenger.
Reiss Nelson, who shone in pre-season, scoring two goals and providing four assists, is another option, and Iwobi clearly has considerable
Alex Iwobi signs a long term deal, with Unai Emery confident he can be a long term replacement for Theo Walcott in the role of promising youngster who never fulfills his potential.— Paddy Power (@paddypower) August 3, 2018
Iwobi was primed to become Arsenal's next big thing when he emerged into the limelight in 2016 and was expected to rise to prominence as Nwankwo Kanu did. As yet, this scenario hasn't materialised, and the Nigerian's supporters ought to be getting concerned.
All hope might not be lost though, because Iwobi does have talent, and time is still on his side.
With a four-year contract until 2022, he has time to work on his flaws, although considering the obstacles in his path, Iwobi will need to up his game if he's to avoid following in the footsteps of Jack Wilshere, the one-time golden boy who was allowed to leave on a free this summer, having been deemed surplus to requirements.