Arsenal: Alex Iwobi and the cost of loyalty

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05: Alex Iwobi of Arsenal (L) is challenged by Solomon March of Brighton and Hove Albion during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Brighton & Hove Albion at Emirates Stadium on May 05, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05: Alex Iwobi of Arsenal (L) is challenged by Solomon March of Brighton and Hove Albion during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Brighton & Hove Albion at Emirates Stadium on May 05, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) /

Arsenal need to make some serious sales, but not everyone is marketable. Alex Iwobi, however, may be a different story entirely.

Of the few things Arsenal fans will unanimously agree on, one of them is the fact that the club need to sell players to fund new summer purchases.

Most fans will point to a handful of players such as Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Shkodran Mustafi who have no doubt been weighing the team down over the last several years with their hefty wages and/or poor performances on the pitch.

The only problem is that other clubs are aware of this too, and as Arsenal are currently finding out, very few clubs are willing to take, in Mkhitaryan and Ozil’s case, aging players with wages far too expensive for the inconsistent qualities that they provide.

In Mustafi’s case, his horrid and careless defending over the years has been well noted by the entire soccer world and Arsenal will have to drop his price tag significantly from the £35m they purchased him for in the summer of 2016 from Valencia. What I’m getting at here is that it is incredibly hard to sell these sorts of players who everyone is aware we are trying to get rid of.

Teams would no doubt attempt to rip Arsenal off for any of these players or request that they continue to pay a portion of the wages owed under Ozil’s and Mkhitaryan’s contracts even if they were to find new teams. While we should still seek to move these players on to other challenges, Arsenal must pursue alternative, more reliable options to raise funds.

light. Related Story. 3 Players Who Can Raise £100m

If they wait on these three and only these three to sell because they are the easiest, least controversial people to sell then we could well end up with the £4m derived from David Ospina being our only income of the summer.

Pursuing other sale options would mean dividing opinion. There are almost no Gunners who would be upset with the sale of any of the three aforementioned players but as we move away from those three, controversy and debate start to set in. The player that strikes me as having relatively strong market value that is somewhat overvalued compared to their true value and potential is Alex Iwobi.

This is upsetting to many as Iwobi, a fan favorite and Arsenal Academy grad, has undoubtedly worked tremendously hard to rise through the ranks of the club and evidences his work rate and passion for the club every time he steps out onto the pitch.

However, Alex Iwobi has severe limitations in his game. Unlike other young players who seem to have the technique and potential to take their game to the next step but lack the physical prowess or intensity to impact their teams now, Iwobi very much represents the opposite. He was able to make 22 appearances in the 2018/2019 Premier League campaign and regularly used his work rate and physical strength to impose his will on smaller opponents. That being said, he regularly lacks composure and technique in the final third, the area of the pitch most telling of one’s true ability.

More from Pain in the Arsenal

Iwobi, to be quite frank, is woeful in the final third. His slow ball movement and indecisiveness slow down the tempo of our attacks while his subpar touch in and around the box regularly allow defenders to either win the ball off him or scurry back to get numbers in the box while Iwobi takes his usual 5-6 touches with his head down.

To give Iwobi credit, he is arguably the only player on the squad who actually attempts to drive at defenders. His better games this season have come against lesser opposition, where a more open, slow, and physical game suits him. His lack of technique is relatively hidden and his power allows him to retain the ball and charge downfield but he is exposed once we face quality opposition.

Once we play the types of teams that we strive to make ourselves better than, whether that be Spurs, Chelsea, or United, Iwobi’s lack of quality is revealed. The high tempo and sharp technique needed to break down highly talented and organized defenses is lost on the Nigerian. His slow decision-making and wasteful touches on the ball bog down Arsenal’s play and are reminiscent of a player of a mid-table side rather than that of a top-six club with Champions League aspirations.

Just 23 years old, Iwobi is still considered by many to be an intriguing prospect, although in reality he may not be getting much better. In today’s market he would in all likelihood command a price between £25m-£30m.

On top of this, Iwobi has admitted that he has played out of position on the wing and would prefer to play a more central role. I agree that he may be more comfortable in the center of the park where he can use his physicality, but his lack of quality should never see him starting at the CAM for Arsenal, especially while Mkhitaryan and Ozil are still Gunners.

Maybe Iwobi will thrive elsewhere. After all, not everyone is built for the Premier League. A mid-table side in a league such as Spain or Italy with a slightly slower tempo and a more open game could be a better fit for him. Alex Iwobi may be a proud Gunner but he is the kind of player the club needs to move on from if they truly want to raise the funds that fans are all craving.

Next. 10 Things Learned About Unai Emery In Year One. dark

This may not be as easy on Arsenal fans as dumping an overpriced, unmotivated Ozil or a reckless Mustafi but it is the type of tough decision that Arsenal have passed on making over the last ten years and we all know how that’s turned out.