The Arsenal whiz-kid appears desperate to ensure that the year is remembered for him and not his Manchester City compatriot, After waiting for years for a sensational Nigerian starlet to break onto the scene, two have come along at once. Following his superb displays against Barcelona and Everton respectively, it looks as though Alex Iwobi could be set to steal the limelight from Kelechi Iheanacho as Nigeria’s breakout star of the season.
It was an incredible week for Iwobi, who has been on the fringes of the Arsenal for much of the campaign, but has truly made his mark in the last week, He was handed an unexpected start against Barcelona in the Champions League,profiting from Arsene Wenger’s disappearing faith in Theo Walcott—and dazzled at Nou Camp, earning a standing ovation from the Gunners fans when He was withdrawn.
The Gunners were praised after the match for being one of the most impressive sides to tackle Barca at the Camp Nou this season, and Iwobi, with his sharp movement, boldness in the dribble and technique, was a big part of this.
Arsenal, perhaps inspired by their midweek showing—albeit in defeat—in the Champions League, were a side transformed against Everton on Saturday. Gone was the meekness and timidity of the FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Watford, and Wenger’s men were bold and relentless, with each of his superstars demonstrating the kind of sharpness and creativity that prompted Wenger to bring him to the club in the first place.
Iwobi shone amongst his talented peers, and once again the superb composure he demonstrated against Barca was evident as the Toffees were tactically outclassed.
The 19-year-old added the Gunners’ second in the 42nd minute when he met Hector Bellerin’s fine pass and finished past Joel Robles, Thus, Scoring His first Premier League Goal in His first EPL start. At that point, it was hard to believe that Jay-Jay Okocha’s nephew had played just 40 minutes over five brief cameos in the Premier League.
However, The Sky Blues wonderkid- Kelechi Iheanacho—is a household name in the EPL compared to his compatriot, having already played for 414 minutes in the division this term.It’s been an incredible year for Iheanacho, who has evolved from being an eye-catching sideshow during City’s pre-season to making 20 appearances in the Premier League, scoring three goals and contributing one assist.
Though, it’s been a disappointing campaign for Man City—even if they’ve broken new ground in the Champions League—but Iheanacho has been a glimpse of light.
He’s also made his Super Eagles debut, and looks set to lead the line for the national side for over a decade to come.
However, the forward—who has four goals in three in the FA Cup outings, and also broke his duck on his Champions League debut—hasn’t done too much that’s been quite as eye-catching as Iwobi’s contribution against Everton on Saturday!
On a broader note, and seeking to move away from the near endless need for comparisons and counter-comparisons that flood the football fan’s psyche, just how excited should Nigeria fans be about a future with these two starlets at their helm!
The prospect of both Iwobi and Iheanacho featuring together for the Super Eagles—and both are already capped—is an interesting one that should have every fan of the national side looking ahead to a thrilling future.
While neither has yet to truly demonstrate that he can be an elite leading man—Iwobi’s finest moments have come on the flanks, while Iheanacho’s intelligence may see him best employed just off a leading man such as Odion Ighalo—the pair have, individually, the capacity to transform Nigeria’s attack.
Together, they could be devastating.
What could Nigeria have done with Iwobi on the left against France in the 2014 World Cup, by which point, Stephen Keshi had attempted to use a number of players to fill the role?
The prospect of some combination of Iwobi, Iheanacho, Ighalo, as well as Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa leading the line for the Super Eagles is delicious, and that’s without beginning to discuss the various forwards who find themselves in and around the squad today or the vast reservoirs of youth talent just waiting to make their mark on the senior side.
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