Arsenal’s hunt for a top-class striker has been well-publicised this season. Mauro Icardi, Alexadre Lacazette, Gonzalo Higuain; these are all names which have been produced by the rumour mill in recent weeks and months. But could the man who will solve the Gunners’ goalscoring woes be a little closer to home? Training centre chief Andries Jonker is certainly optimistic on that question. He believes now is the time for Alex Iwobi to shine (via Arsenal.com).
Iwobi, a product of the Arsenal training academy, is just 20-years-old. He’s come up through the ranks, having to prove himself at every turn. He broke through last year, made his senior debut, scoring in each of his two premier league starts and earning himself a long-term deal at the Emirates in the process.
“The good thing is that Alex came here to Hale End [The Arsenal training academy] as an under-9, so he couldn’t have been here any earlier. He spent many, many hours in the training dome working hard with all those coaches,” Jonker told Arsenal.com, “What makes him different from many other boys is that, when you analyse him, he’s good at all aspects. It’s not just him being a good player, he’s also a stable guy who’s working hard every day because he’s not getting distracted by having a lot of success.”
There could be more success to come. With first-choice striker Olivier Giroud on extended leave after Euro 2016, Iwobi is being mooted as a likely starter for Arsenal’s first game of the season against Liverpool. It’s a real chance for the Nigeria international to put down a marker. The Gunners might of course sign a striker before then, but given manager Arsene Wenger’s record in the transfer market in past seasons, that is far from guaranteed. Going against Iwobi however is his relative youth and inexperience. But he is a homegrown talent and that gives him a special place within the Arsenal setup.
“He’s a personification of a player with Arsenal DNA. I don’t want to give him too many compliments because he’s played maybe 10 games,” Jonker adds. “We should speak about him like this after 100 games. But the player he is, the man he is, that’s what we want to be. That’s what we want to achieve with all those young players. He’s the example for all of them.”
Iwobi is carrying plenty of responsibility on his shoulders. But if Jonkers is to be believed, the training academy graduate is not one to lose his head over such things. No doubt all of that composure will come in handy if the senior squad comes calling this season in a big way.