Alex Iwobi

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Everton beat the deadline to make Alex Iwobi their seventh signing of the summer 2019 transfer window, with the forward joining on a five-year deal.

He made his debut from the bench in a game at Aston Villa before marking his first two starts with goals, Iwobi heading home in a Goodison Park Premier League win over Wolverhampton Wanderers four days after netting in a Carabao Cup tie at Lincoln City.

Iwobi began 23 matches and played six times as a substitute in his first season with the Club.

Of 30 Premier League appearances in his second campaign in 2020/21, 17 were from the start, with Iwobi scoring the opening goal in a 2-1 win at Wolves.

He played six games in cup competitions – four starts – and was on target in the 5-2 Carabao Cup third-round victory away against League One Fleetwood Town.

Iwobi suffered in his opening couple of seasons, nonetheless, for the versatility that resulted in the player's deployment in a number of positions. 

A switch was flicked with the arrival of Frank Lampard as manager, which coincided with Iwobi's evident desire to stand tall in the Club's battle to avoid a first relegation since 1951.

The player's energy and stamina and positivity were utilised to tremendous effect in Lampard's midfield, where Iwobi was especially outstanding in a single-goal win over Manchester United in early April.

A tactial adjustment meant another switch for Iwobi, who reverted to a right-wing-back position he filled with some success for a period of the previous season.

Iwobi didn't break stride following the change, maintaining an eye-watering workrate and fast-growing into one of Lampard's go-to men. It was a measure of his elevated standing that Iwobi started and finished Everton's closing 12 matches – a sequence that began with a strike in the ninth minute of stoppgae time to defeat Newcastle United and spark defeaning and prolonged celebrations inside Goodison.

Iwobi's longest stretch in Everton's starting line-up formerly ran to seven matches. But now he was transforming into a talismanic figure and that status was underlined in the home victory over Crystal Palace, when Iwobi's return to midfield for the second half was one of the major catalysts for Everton's recovery from 2-0 down at half-time to win 3-2 and confirm a 69th straight year of top-flight football.

He once again played an integral part in Everton's midfield - both centrally and out wide - in 2022/23 as the Blues again escaped a relegation battle, sealing their safety with a 1-0 win over Bournemouth on the final day of the campaign.

The impact of Iwobi's performances in 2022/23 were underlined by his teammates' decision to select him as the Club's Players' Player of the Season.

Born in the sprawling Nigerian city of Lagos, Iwobi moved to England at the age of four and spent his formative years in the east London borough of Newham, home to Premier League regulars West Ham United.

However, it was cross-city Arsenal who spotted the youngster’s early footballing promise and, in 2004, signed him up as an eight-year-old to their Hale End academy.

Cultivating a reputation as an offensive-minded player who could make things happen but also work hard for his team, Iwobi progressed through the Arsenal ranks to earn his first-team debut in an October 2015 League Cup last-16 match against Sheffield Wednesday at the age of 19.

The nephew of Jay-Jay Okocha, the early suggestions were that the young Iwobi had dutifully studied his idolised uncle, his game - like Okocha's - being based on flair, skill and an abundance of natural ability.

Iwobi made his Premier League debut as a late substitute against Swansea City four days later and would go on to amass another four appearances off the bench before netting on his first top-flight start in March the following year – a 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison.

His eye-catching performance on Merseyside that afternoon proved the catalyst for him starting all but one of Arsenal's remaining eight league fixtures - adding another goal, against Watford, and two assists – as the Gunners overhauled north London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur to claim second place in the Premier League behind shock 5000-1 winners Leicester City.

Having won the Victory Shield with England in 2011 and represented the Three Lions at Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 levels, Iwobi's form saw him handed his first competitive senior appearance for Nigeria at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, the forward's switch of allegiance to the Super Eagles already having been signified by his involvement in a friendly against DR Congo the previous October.

Like on his first Premier League start for Arsenal, he marked the occasion with a goal as Nigeria defeated Zambia 2-1 in a 2018 World Cup qualifier. He was named in Nigeria's provisional 35-man squad for the Olympic Games that summer but did not feature in the final 18-man party.

Iwobi quickly shelved that disappointment and was picked for Arsenal's opening game of the 2016/17 season, against Liverpool, providing an assist for Theo Walcott in an eventual 4-3 defeat for the Londoners.

Despite sustaining a thigh injury that kept him out of the Gunners' following two league fixtures, he was quickly reinstated by boss Arsene Wenger and went on to make 27 starts in a campaign that yielded 39 run-outs in all competitions, four goals, eight assists and an FA Cup winners' medal. After featuring in early round wins over Preston North End, Southampton and Sutton United, Iwobi was selected in Arsenal's squad for their 2-1 Wembley victory over Chelsea in the final.

A notable breakthrough campaign also included another international goal against Zambia in October, on this occasion Iwobi’s cool, sweeping finish proving enough to inflict a 1-0 defeat on Nigeria’s opponents but, more importantly, seal the country’s place at the following summer's World Cup finals in Russia.

Iwobi and Arsenal were back at Wembley to face Chelsea in the Community Shield ahead of the 2017/18 campaign and this time there was a starting role for the youngster as the Gunners overcame their capital rivals on penalties following a 1-1 draw.

That triggered another profitable season in 2017/18, Iwobi adding a further 39 appearances, three goals and seven assists as Wenger's 22nd and final campaign at the Arsenal helm ended in a sixth-placed Premier League finish and League Cup final loss to Manchester City in which the forward came off the bench for the final 17 minutes.

Having led his nation to Russia, Iwobi featured in all three of Nigeria's World Cup group matches in the summer of 2018 but defeats against Argentina and eventual finalists Croatia proved fatal as the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the knockout stages.

Iwobi returned to Arsenal and enjoyed his most productive goalscoring season to date, kicking off by applying a clinical finish to a flowing, 18-pass team move in a 3-2 opening weekend loss against old foes Chelsea.

It was against the same opposition that his sixth and final goal of 2018/19 came 10 months on, albeit against the backdrop of Arsenal's crushing 4-1 Europa League final defeat in Baku.

Nevertheless, a fruitful campaign also saw the improving Iwobi add a further 51 Arsenal appearances to his tally, while his record of nine assists was bettered only by France international forward Alexandre Lacazette.

Iwobi left Emirates Stadium having contributed 15 goals and 27 assists in 149 appearances. Of those games, he started a hefty 103.

And Iwobi’s impact at international level continues to be felt, too. An integral figure as Nigeria finished third in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, he notched the winner to settle a thrilling five-goal contest against Cameroon in the last-16 - his sixth international goal. The Super Eagles' 1-0 victory over Tunisia in the third-place play-off saw Iwobi collect his 36th cap at the age of just 23 and he reached the half century of national team appearances in a World Cup qualification victory over Liberia in November 2021.

Nigeria lost a play-off for the right to go to the competiton in Qatar, two months after a last-16 campaign at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, staged in January 2022 due to the COVID pandemic.

Contracted until June 2024.

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