Despite Everton’s higher Premier League standing, the Nigeria icon believes the Gunners should never have let the Super Eagle depart North London
Has anyone actually benefitted from Alex Iwobi’s sale to Everton in summer 2019?
The former prodigy left Arsenal for Merseyside almost two years ago after several years at the Emirates Stadium, but the transfer hasn’t truly aided his career. Admittedly, the Nigerian is probably more rounded now than he was before the switch, but be that as it may, moonlighting in wide defence and wing-back probably wasn’t what the Super Eagle envisioned when he moved less than two years ago.
Typically featuring in either wide playmaking role in North London, the 24-year-old has been moved around all too often this year under Carlo Ancelotti. While the initial excitement meant the Italian could trust the ex-Arsenal man in his side, the fact he could be utilised in multiple roles was meant to be an alternative solution for the Italian manager if need be.
However, what ought to be an alternate plan has largely been made the West African’s primary usefulness to the side.
The player’s frustration probably peaked in March when he made a hash of what was intended to be a cryptic tweet saying: “Always an honour to get a call up for my national team. Hopefully, I get to play in my preferred position,” Iwobi posted on his Instagram story in March.
The result: being played in the hole from the off against Burnley but this was quickly abandoned after the Clarets ambushed the Toffees at Goodison Park in the opening half-hour, a game they won 2-1.
That was the second defeat in a row at the time and Ancelotti’s team have failed to win in the next three Premier League games, taking their run without a league win to five. The upshot of that unwanted streak has put Everton’s hopes of ending above Arsenal for the first time in PL history under threat, with Mikel Arteta’s team three points back having played a game more.
Even though both clubs seem to have gone in opposite directions in the last year or thereabouts, Gunners icon Nwankwo Kanu believes the switch was ill-advised.
“I was surprised they let Alex Iwobi go when they did. He was supposed to be a part of this team,” Kanu said, as per Metro. “I think they’d be a better team with him in it. He’s Arsenal blood and he’s always given his all for the team.
“He plays at an international level. I believe he’d be much more comfortable in this Arsenal team than he is in the Everton team.”
The conclusion of Kanu’s assessment of his countryman’s time at Goodison was quite revealing, especially as Arteta’s team looked to lack a useful link-up player for a while until Emile Smith-Rowe and Martin Odegaard (on loan from Real Madrid) became key players under the former Manchester City assistant manager.
It’s also safe to assume the Nigeria playmaker was never going to feature in so many wide-ranging positions in North London had Unai Emery opted against letting the nutmeg prince leave in 2019.
The Super Eagles icon, though, remains unsure of his old team’s direction under the former Arsenal captain, questioning their decline in domestic competition pointing to their position in the standings.
“It’s a difficult one to assess as far as Arsenal’s season is concerned because domestically, they aren’t anywhere near what we’re used to seeing, but in Europe, they look really strong,” he continued. “The coach did a good job in winning the FA Cup last season, but this is a big club, and the expectation of a big club is to win the league.
“As things stand, you can’t rate Arsenal highly in terms of performances in the Premier League, but if they can win the Europa League, it gives them a good balance, knowing they have struggled in the league.”
In truth, Iwobi hasn’t had things go all his way since leaving the Emirates, with the jury still out on his personal growth.
Still, if he helps Everton end above Arsenal for the first time since the advent of the PL, it’ll be a small victory for a player who has enjoyed limited joy in the last 24 months.