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Hit or miss: Why next season will define Alex Iwobi’s Arsenal career – opinion

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He may be blessed with coming from the same gene pool as Jay-Jay Okocha, but FIFA are yet to create an award for the most ridiculous nutmegs – which Alex Iwobi may well have been in the running for over the past few years.

Therefore, the Nigeria international will have to settle for the more conventional accolades football has to offer – but if he is to achieve those at Arsenal, there is no better opportunity than now to stake a claim to be a central part of The Gunners’ success.

Having broken into the first team some four seasons ago, it is high time Iwobi delivered on the promise that has led to his inclusion in the senior side and becoming a regular name on the Arsenal teamsheet.

In providing perhaps the last burst of joy (relatively speaking) for Arsenal fans with his explosive finish in the Europa League final, Iwobi has proved his worth as an impact player. But few successful footballers have made a career from the bench, and if the academy product is to fulfil his potential and emulate his uncle Jay-Jay, as one of Arsenal’s few out-and-out wingers, Iwobi really should be pressing for a regular starting position.

The fact that Iwobi played in all but three of Arsenal’s league games last season suggests he is firmly in the plans of Unai Emery – but given a fair handful of those could go down as brief cameos, as the squad’s main winger, Iwobi can hardly be impressing at the level a player in his position should be –  considering the system Emery usually deploys.

And while only Alexandre Lacazette assisted more than him within the Arsenal squad last season, relying on the Frenchman to provide the main service for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when his job is to score goals himself means Iwobi (and everyone else, for that matter) must improve next season before Emery – or the fans – decide his talent is merely limited for a club with demands as high as Arsenal’s.

But having had the capacity to show in glimpses what he may be able to deliver on a consistent basis, finding that consistency will be the main hurdle to overcome as he battles for a starting place.

He may have a lack of solid competition at the moment, but with the club reportedly looking at bringing in Wilfried Zaha, it seems clear that the club feel this is a position that needs strengthening, and Iwobi may find himself further down the pecking order if he is unable to prove his worth to the Gunners faithful and his manager.

So it seems time could be running out for Iwobi to display the required level expected of him at Arsenal, and is at the now-or-never stage of his Gunners career.

Perhaps solid competition in the shape of Zaha or Reiss Nelson is the inspiration he needs – but either way, Arsenal need Iwobi to step up to the plate next year if both parties are to make something of the 23-year-old’s footballing promise.

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