The Transformation

Largely written off at one time by the bulk of the Everton fanbase, Alex Iwobi has undergone a metamorphosis unlike any in living Evertonian memory... and it has come just when the club desperately needed it

It was only as recently as nine months ago that Alex Iwobi had largely been written off as another failed Everton signing; the “poster boy”, almost, for the recklessly profligate and haphazard nature of the club’s recruitment over the course of Farhad Moshiri’s regime to that point, and one of the more prominent examples of unwanted and unproductive outside influence on the billionaire owner from figures like Kia Joorabchian.

Signed almost literally on the deadline for incoming transfers in August 2019, the Nigerian midfielder bore all the hallmarks at the time of a panic purchase, with the price tag that reflected the premium often applied to last-minute sales, and over the ensuing months there was little to justify the outlay of an initial £28m on a player who, while admittedly still young, had flattered to deceive at Arsenal.

And when Marco Silva’s tenure imploded and Carlo Ancelotti was appointed in late December, the Italian used the second half of the 2019-20 season to fully assess the squad he had inherited and he would make overhauling the midfield the priority the following summer.

It was telling, perhaps, that Iwobi was omitted entirely from the first match of Ancelotti’s first season following the signing of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré and James Rodriguez and by the time he started his first game of 2020-21, he had been converted to right wing-back as the Italian experimented with a line-up that had just lost three on the bounce and seen a flying start to the campaign abruptly come off the rails.

That wouldn’t be the last time Iwobi was deployed as a wing-back, an illustration of his versatility as much as of a career overall that has seen him played in a variety of roles at both of the clubs he has represented without ever nailing one particular position down as his own.

However, the suspicion from observers has always been that his best position, the one in which he revels in playing for his country, is as a central attacking midfielder. Not for nothing was the refrain from Arsenal fans when Everton signed him: “Just don’t play him on the wing.” Yet that is where he played almost exclusively in his final season at the Emirates , when he made 30 starts and 51 appearances in all, and in his 29 appearances during his first full season at Goodison Park.

It took almost three years and for the Nigeria international to reach the point where his name was rumoured to be among those being quietly circulated around by Everton as a player they would consider offloading before he would finally emerge as a linchpin in the Blues’ first team in the part of the pitch where most believe he is best suited.

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Alexander Chuka Iwobi was born in Lagos, Nigeria’s former capital, in May 1996 but he grew up in the Newham borough of London after his family moved to England when he was four years old. He joined Arsenal as an eight-year-old but his dream of one day representing the Gunners at senior level was almost cut short when the club considered releasing him when he was 14 and again at the age of 16.

He impressed sufficiently to remain in the North London club’s academy, however, and, having scored 10 goals in 19 games for the Under-21s the season before, by the 2015-16 season, he made the step up to Arsenal’s first-team set-up, making his debut in a League Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday that October and then making his Premier League bow off the bench a few days later in an away game against Swansea City.

Benefitting from Arsene Wenger’s decision not to send him out on loan, Alex began to bed himself into Arsenal’s first-team set-up, training alongside world-class players like Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Özil. Eventually, he would start keeping future Everton team-mate Theo Walcott out of the side as he continued to develop and impress.

“I’ve always been told at certain moments that I’m not good enough and there were times I was going to get released at Arsenal. So I’ve always had to have that belief in myself that I can overcome any obstacle and prove to people that I am good enough.”

Alex Iwobi

“He’s worked with us since the start of the season and he has grown, gained confidence and when he came in he had an impact straight away,” Wenger said of the 19-year-old Iwobi. “That’s benefited from the fact that he knows everybody and they trust him as well. I didn’t expect that level of efficiency or impact on the scoresheet.”

Almost predictably, given that he is not renowned since for his goalscoring ability — the most he has managed in a season to date is five goals in all competitions, scored for Arsenal in 2018-19 that included, of course, a quite brilliant consolation strike on the half-volley in the Europa League Final against Chelsea in Baku — his first senior goal came at Goodison Park, just days after lining up against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Champions League, on his first Premier League start for the Gunners in March 2016 in a 2-0 win over Roberto Martinez’s Everton. Latching onto a ball over the top, he galloped into oceans of space behind the Toffees’ back line and calmly slotted the ball between Joel Robles’s legs.

In terms of his international allegiance, although he represented England from Under-16 to Under-18 level, he ultimately opted to play for his native Nigeria like his uncle, one-time Premier League star Jay-Jay Okocha, with whom he is in regular contact.

“I was playing for England at 16, 17, 18 and then had two spells at 19 but then it dried up,” Alex explained to The Irish News on a recent trip to Belfast where his charitable foundation, Project 17, is branching out with a new partnership aimed at helping immigrants and people from different backgrounds integrate into their new communities via sport. “Obviously I'm originally from Nigeria, and they gave me the opportunity to go and play, or come and trial for their under-23s for the Olympics. And it's something I just thought, well, let me go and see what it's like, go and embrace my culture.

“I went and enjoyed it. I've really felt at home because I was brought up in the Nigerian culture with my family. That felt perfect for me. Although I did really enjoy playing for England, I feel like I'm more at home when I play for Nigeria, and I'm enjoying it.”

He was named in his country’s squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but only made one start and two appearances off the bench as the Super Eagles failed to get out of the group stage.

“It was a tough group, it was crazy,” he said. “But to be in the biggest competition in the world for me and to play at such a young age was like a dream come true, representing my country and my family, my parents and my sister was there as well. So I was honoured. Even though we didn't go past the group stage, we went out with our heads held high, we performed very well.”

These days, he is an integral member of Nigeria’s team but their failure to qualify for this November’s tournament in Qatar means that he will only be a spectator this time around which, while sad for him personally, will benefit Everton who will need him fresh for when the domestic season resumes in late December.

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The summer of 2019 had engendered plenty of optimism at Goodison Park, with André Gomes signed on a permanent deal following a successful season on loan from Barcelona and promising young acquisitions like Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Moise Kean coming in from Mainz and Juventus respectively.

The period approaching the closure of the transfer window was then dominated, though, by Everton’s fairly public pursuit of Crystal Palace’s star winger, Wilfried Zaha, a player whom Moshiri clearly viewed as the marquee signing to cap off the summer’s business and to give manager Marco Silva the best chance of success following an encouraging second half of the 2018-19 campaign.

Palace, however, were in no mood to sell unless a sky-high valuation of between £70m and £80m was met, a figure that may well have reflected his value to the Eagles if not his actual worth but, regardless, it was well beyond Everton’s budget and no amount of haggling as the transfer deadline approached could convince Palace chairman, Steve Parrish, to part with his most important player on the eve of a new season.

With that door emphatically closed and with time running out, Moshiri appeared to become a little desperate to make some kind of splash in the market to add more creativity to Silva’s squad. At the eleventh hour on deadline day, he returned to Arsenal, the club in which he once held a sizeable stake alongside long-time business associate, Alisher Usmanov, to discuss a second bid for Iwobi having had an opening offer turned down a couple of days previously.

The Nigerian was on a boat in Dubai at the time which only added to the complexity of getting the transfer ratified in time but, from the financial perspective, Moshiri had long been operating on a “money’s no object” footing and he ended up striking a deal that could eventually top £35m depending on what clauses were inserted into the terms of sale.

“I thought the deal was off,” Iwobi explained to The Times after everything had been concluded. “Then, my agent was calling me: ‘Alex, they are going to put in another bid. What do you think? I need to know ASAP.’ Bear in mind I am still on the boat, so I have to tell the driver to turn around. He couldn’t speak English, so it was tough trying to get him to go back to our hotel in order to sign the papers. He was zooming [back to shore].

“Everything was getting sent to the hotel. I was having to sign stuff and scan it back. Wait. Get something back again. The people in the hotel had no idea what was going on. They recognised me as an Arsenal player and they’re saying, ‘How’s Arsenal? How’s everything going there?’ And I am signing these papers trying to leave. That day was so crazy.”

Even at the initial fee of £28m, it was an eye-wateringly expensive transfer for a player who had just three Premier League goals and six assists to his name the previous season, the latest in a succession of transfers that had seen the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen, Yannick Bolasie, Michael Keane, Morgan Schneiderlin, Cenk Tosun, Morgan Schneiderlin and Walcott arrive for a combined £200m over the preceding three years. As such, it was a deal that raised suspicions, only intensified with hindsight as Iwobi struggled to make the grade at Everton, that Moshiri had acted at the prompting of his friend and quasi-agent Joorabchian without doing full due diligence on the target.

Iwobi would be the last signing made during Silva’s tenure as Everton manager, there would be no money spent the following January as Ancelotti began the process of running the rule over the squad and when £60m+ was splashed on new players in the summer of 2020, only the £20m outlay on Ben Godfrey represented speculative money on younger talent; the rest went on proven midfield acquisitions like Doucouré, Allan and James.

Yet even they were costly in aggregate — James, it would later be revealed, was commanding a salary of £250,000 a week while Allan is on close to six figures himself — and by the time Ancelotti had dumped Everton to hook back up with Real Madrid the following year, Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules and the Premier League’s own regulations around profitability and sustainability had forced Moshiri into a biting policy of austerity.

The bitter Irony was that because of unproductive signings like Iwobi, the club couldn’t afford to give new boss Rafael Benitez more than the £1.7m it cost to land Demarai Gray in the summer of 2021 in order to buy the kind of quality that Alex himself wasn’t providing. The upshot was that the combination of a small squad lacking sufficient quality and an utterly ill-suited managerial hire in the form of Benitez condemned the Toffees to a miserable season that had become a fraught battle of survival by the time the Spaniard was inevitably sacked in mid-January 2022.

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Salvation for Everton and their Number 17 would come in the form of a figure as far removed from Merseyside and Scouse culture as he was. Regardless of how joined-up or otherwise was the process of replacing Benitez — it took more than a fortnight to accomplish and came down to three wildly differing candidates — it ended with the appointment of Frank Lampard and, in fairly short order, the belated emergence of a top player in Iwobi.

Everything about his time at Goodison that preceded Lampard’s arrival — from the bizarre and possibly panicked circumstances around his signing to three seasons of middling form and inconsistency under as many managers — makes Iwobi’s metamorphosis from expensive flop to midfield dynamo all the more remarkable. There may not ever have been a transformation like it in living Evertonian memory and it came just when the club desperately needed it.

The player himself had been away at the Africa Cup of Nations when Lampard arrived on 31st January and he was a substitute for his first two games in charge but when a landmark home fixture against Leeds came around on 12th February, Iwobi heeded the new manager’s advice to take what he was showing in training at Finch Farm and reproduce it on the pitch at Goodison Park and beyond.

Iwobi had long been renowned among Everton’s players as being the most skilful player in the squad, even if match-going Blues might have had a hard time believing it based on the evidence before them on match days. But there was no questioning his application at Finch Farm which is, perhaps, why he remained a fixture in the side even while it struggled as successive managers moved him through different positions trying to leverage that work-rate. Lampard simply told him to play the way he trains and express himself on the pitch.

The game against Leeds was only his eighth start of the campaign but Iwobi was a player reborn and not only did he put in what was his best performance in a Blue jersey to that point, he got a maximum-dose of the confidence that comes from having a bouncing Goodison behind you. It was an eye-opening moment that changed his approach, his demeanour and his effectiveness.

He later admitted, after a terrific display of tracking back, harrying Leeds players out of their stride in the press, and uncharacteristic productivity with the ball at his feet, to the realisation that if you give 100%, if you run and give everything for the cause, Everton’s fans will back you, forgive you for making mistakes in trying things and give you the confidence to try them again.

“His ball progression and work rate, what Frank has now recognised him and put him there... listen to the Everton fans when he’s doing his work; they are adoring him now. I’m loving the way it’s working out for Iwobi. I’m just talking about somebody who’s making a massive difference to what Everton need – the work rate, his ball progression, his passing, everything.”

Ian Wright

A month later, a player long criticised for his lack of end product blew the proverbial roof off the Grand Old Lady with a 99th-minute winner for the 10-man Blues against Newcastle in a game that ended up being crucial in terms of the club’s survival from relegation — bursting through central midfield and picking up a deft return ball from Dominic Calvert-Lewin before burying a left-foot shot.

Perhaps the embodiment of a “confidence player”, Iwobi described the impact it can have on a player when the home crowd and the manager is fully behind you:

“You almost feel unstoppable. You almost feel like you can do anything on the pitch.”

He would be asked to play right wing-back at times as Lampard tried to find the best mix of defensive solidity to allow Everton to pick up enough points to stay up but Iwobi had clearly turned a corner. Fast forward to the early past of this season and even when tasked with playing a deeper-lying midfield role because of injuries and a lack of depth in the holding tole, Iwobi has been displaying the maturity, composure and control that these days makes him the first outfield name on the team sheet.

Impressive against Chelsea and Nottingham Forest despite the disappointing results, he came to the fore in the Goodison derby with some mesmeric footwork around Liverpool’s much-vaunted Mohamed Salah that went viral on social media. Against West Ham this past weekend, he was deservedly named player of the match in the Toffees’ first win of the season.

Even though he has shown glimpses in patches of the player he could be, such a renaissance, on balance, looked a remote possibility as Everton struggled at times over the past three seasons. Iwobi himself never gave up hope of things coming good for him on the Blue half of Merseyside.

“I never had the mindset that it was never going to work out”, he said in a recent interview with evertontv. “I always thought I could overcome this and prove people wrong and it was just a matter of timing.

“When the opportunity came with the new manager, I used it like a new chapter in my life where I said, ‘forget the past; what’s happened has happened, let’s go again’. It’s a new challenge [and] it’s worked alright so far.”

Iwobi has risen to that challenge and it is, indeed, working for him, so much so that there have been calls from some Arsenal fans to buy him back while Gunners legend Ian Wright says his club might have made a mistake in selling him to Everton three years ago and that current boss Mikel Arteta could do with “his work rate, his ball progression, his passing, everything” in his title-chasing side.

Everton, however, are making moves to reward Iwobi for his transformation by preparing a bumper new contract to replace the one that expires in the summer of 2024. Perhaps no player in the Blues' squad deserves it more. In the meantime, the player himself gets to keep developing his new partnership in what Evertonians are lauding as the most balanced and exciting midfield trio the club have had in many years.

Together with Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye, the Blues have with Iwobi power, agility, legs and determination in the middle of the park where before they were weak and porous. He will know that consistency has been his biggest issue since he joined, that he needs to add more end product to his game in the vein of his vital assist against the Hammers, and start to weigh in with his share of goals from midfield.

As he grows in stature and appears to finally be fulfilling his rich potential, you wouldn’t bet against his innate self-confidence.

“I’ve always been told at certain moments that I’m not good enough and there were times I was going to get released at Arsenal,” he recently said in The Athletic. “So I’ve always had to have that belief in myself that I can overcome any obstacle and prove to people that I am good enough.

“It’s taken three years but it’s never too late,” he says with a smile. “Obviously it hasn’t always been the best, but the fans have given me belief. I have to maintain it now.”

Reader Responses

Selected thoughts from readers

Sam Hoare
Posted 21/09/2022 at 07:54:07
I always thought the criticism that Iwobi received was OTT. Even at his worst times he still never lacked energy and was always near top of the team for those making progressive passes. He was a victim of his own inflated transfer fee (why we still seem to wait till transfer deadline day to make certain moves I don't understand, must try harder to do business early) and struggled for end product (he still does a bit). But I always felt he was being made whipping boy without being much worse than any of the players around him.

It was clear he was not quite explosive enough to make a winger who gets goals (which is what we needed and still need) but I wondered whether his terrific short passing and work rate would help if played a touch deeper and so it has proved.

He's grown in confidence and is now surely one of the first names on the team sheet. One of our most creative and hard working players. Credit to him and to Lampard, I'm excited to see if he can keep it up and maybe add a few more goals to his game which could be the cherry on the cake.

Duncan McDine
Posted 21/09/2022 at 08:16:03
It goes to show what can happen when a talented footballer starts to run his balls off for the club. Some players have all the fight and dedication, but lack talent… others have bags of skill but can't be arsed. But when a skilful player learns how to behave on a football pitch, the sky's the limit.

It's a rare thing to see such a transformation, but very pleasing for everyone attached to Everton. He's my favourite player and I get the same satisfaction watching him as I did when Pienaar was at his best for us.
Ian Bennett
Posted 21/09/2022 at 08:27:40
I can understand the criticism Sam, he was playing in the front 3 and was producing nothing. Managers are routed out if they don't win games, and atackers if they're not scoring or assisting. That's life in football.

He has gone through a huge change, and is a really good player to play as the attacking link player within a 3. His soft feet, stamina and ability to get around the pitch have made Doucoure pretty much obsolete. That has surprised me as much as anything else, as the best will in the world we all wanted rid of Alex. It his one hell of a transformation, and for that we are all glad to be wrong.

The key part of the article was Arsenal fans saying just don't play him on the wing, which is precisely what we did.

Clubs have a real love of buying out of form players, or playing players in alien positions. Sometimes it works, but most times it's setting players up to fail - and for that I don't get it when you're talking transfer fees and wages of £10m+. Surely the research should have come back that he isn't a winger.
Billy Roberts
Posted 21/09/2022 at 10:11:12
Excellent piece again Lyndon.

I always thought he was more important to Arsenal's team than it turned out. I suppose that's what you get by judging players on MOTD highlights he always seemed to be involved, causing problems, his technique seemed very good. Then they sold him. without a second thought... That spoke volumes. His transfer value will only be judged if and when we sell him really as he has still a good few years in the game.

It is always good to see a player come from the bottom of the pit to man of the match does say a lot about his character. It reminds me of Barry Horne who took some terrible stick but gradually improved his game and like Iwobi was involved in saving our bacon in a crucial game. I ended up really admiring Barry Horne for his tenacity and pure mental strength to win over the fans.

The list of other players we bought around Iwobi's arrival is quite frightening especially to see we bought Schneiderlin TWICE!! No wonder we got in financial difficulties.
Danny O’Neill
Posted 21/09/2022 at 10:30:50
When it seemed like most had decided on him, I was probably one of a few lone voices who could see are player in there somewhere. I got frustrated with him as much as anyone. I used to jokingly say that he confuses himself, but the plus side was that he confused the opposition on occasions to our advantage.

If you consider the turbulence that has surrounded the club since his arrival, like many of our players, they've not known if they're coming or going. Quite literally.

He definitely strikes me as a confidence player. But then most players are and that goes for most all walks of life. If you have moments or periods of self-doubt, you won't perform. Some can fix that themselves, some respond to a rocket up the proverbial whilst others need coaxing and coaching to believe in their abilities.

I've never doubted his work rate or effort. Now he has the confidence and is clearly enjoying a more central role, if he maintains the consistency demonstrated these past several months, he can peak and flourish. With Everton.

We have a player on our hands. We always did have. We just had to find him and convince him. Without getting carried away, it would seem that the current manager and staff have done that.
Mark Andrews
Posted 21/09/2022 at 10:41:25
That's an excellently written article Lyndon. I'll hold my hands up and admit I was completely wrong about Alex Iwobi. I groaned when I saw his name in the team sheet, now he's the first name I look for.
Robert Bresnan
Posted 21/09/2022 at 10:46:31
I wasn't his worst detractor. But he did disappoint consistently and it's great to see him bloom finally into lovely footballing flower!
Phil Lewis
Posted 21/09/2022 at 11:02:56
Iwobi is unquestionably unrecognisable today from the player of previous seasons. His transformation has been quite staggering to witness. I have to go back as far as Adrian Heath when reminded of such a dramatic improvement in a player. Older contributors on here may recall that Heath struggled for a couple of seasons after Kendal paid a huge amount for him, before finding the form which made him such a contributory factor in the all conquering 80's team.

It isn't just Iwobi's hairstyle that is similar to Edgar David's. He is rapidly developing the confidence on the ball that the Dutch star mesmerised the opposition with. If Iwobi is able to add a little more bite and steel, along with a few more goals to his game, then the transformation will be complete. We will indeed have a genuine star footballer in our ranks.

He has certainly made me eat my words, as I confess to being his biggest critic a couple of seasons back. Full credit to the player and Lampard's backroom staff in his overall improvement.
Martin Mason
Posted 21/09/2022 at 11:09:30
Congratulations to Alex and Everton. It doesn't often go right for us but it all seems to be going right in one Big Bang just now.
Peter Hodgson
10 Posted 21/09/2022 at 11:48:47
A good piece giving a background insight into the player that is very rarely explored by the press and the reason why so much has improved with the player. All good stuff much of it I wasn't aware of but very valuable in understanding a little more about what makes Alex tick.

Congratulations to him for his efforts and to Lyndon for putting pen to paper to enlighten us simple supporters.
Jerome Shields
11 Posted 21/09/2022 at 12:10:46
Sam, a good summary of Iwobi at Everton. Even Seamus Coleman ackowledged his work rate and went out of way to encourage him.

Frank has clearly identified Iwobi's correct role in the team, something that Ancelotti struggled with, on his own admission.
Steve Daniells
13 Posted 21/09/2022 at 13:07:51
When he tweeted a day or two ago that he's off to play for Nigeria during the international break, my first thought was “please, please, please don't get injured!!” He makes us tick.

He's been an absolute revelation since Lampard came along. I think Frank has said that he can play almost anywhere and that was probably a big problem for him - hence seeing him on the wing or wingback. The old “Jack of all trades, master of none” situation. But whether by design or by luck, we've found his best position now, and he's masterful. An absolute joy to watch.
John Daley
14 Posted 21/09/2022 at 13:26:19
Perhaps the main thing I've liked about Lampard so far is that he has, seemingly, made his mind up rather swiftly about players who have been able to continually bluff previous managers that they could be banked upon.

He got rid of Ali at first opportunity (irrespective of whether he sanctioned the signing in the first place) when it became clear it wasn't working. He's ditched the dodgem-car-with-a-ducktail-goatee Gomes. Michael Keane looks like he won't be used unless there's no other option. Same with Allan.

These actions would be deemed ‘ruthless' if taken by a manager with a media darling reputation for no-nonsense intensity. Lampard, however, has seemingly pulled it off without alienating anybody.

For me, his man-management has been spot on so far and Iwobi is the exemplar of that approach. Obviously, the player himself must be praised for both his attitude and resilience…and he's always had brief moments buried in amongst the mediocrity of the majority of his time in a blue shirt…but Lampard putting his trust in him has seen Iwobi produce performances and levels of consistency I didn't think he was capable of.

Sam, in respect to Iwobi getting greater stick than others who were either equally or more deserving, I think with it being rumoured almost from the off that the deal to bring him to the club was all Moshiri's doing, with no input from the manager or director of football, that the player himself became something of a lightning rod for criticism of a rash loon owner lashing millions on rubbish. Hopefully, given Iwobi's incredible change of fortune, we won't find ourselves now being subjected to people doing a full 180 and claiming that Farhad can clearly spot a player.
Steve Mink
15 Posted 21/09/2022 at 14:00:24
Great piece, Lyndon. The transformation in Iwobi has been remarkable. He's my Man of the Match most weeks these days.
Martin Clark
16 Posted 21/09/2022 at 14:14:51
Enjoyed the read and hope he has found his position and place at Everton. It's an exciting and positive midfield collection we'd had in ages, rather than whoever is fit plays in midfield. We now have backup in Doucouré, Garner and an improved Davies.

Centre back has had the same injection with options especially once injuries return. Just hope we can start clicking upfront and who knows what could happen this season.
Steve Shave
17 Posted 21/09/2022 at 15:19:45
Great article, fantastic lad from as far as I can tell and nobody has made me eat humble pie more than Iwobi has. I am a firm believer in being proved wrong by people, I am happy to own my previous misgivings.

His athleticism, grit and guile has captured the hearts of most at our club. He (and Pickford and Gordon) dragged the club through and out of the hole we were in last season, epitomising the determination Frank and the fans demanded. In many ways his Phoenix like rising from the ashes remains (to me) a symbol of our relegation turnaround. For this alone he deserves to be held in high esteem from our fans.

He is delivering on his early promise, he is always available on the pitch, doesn't shirk, never injured, he looks to move the ball forward incisively and he is not afraid to take risks with a forward pass. My first name on the team sheet this season so far and if he can build again and start adding goals to his game then we will have a real player on our hands.

I am happy with the squad, I would like another Gapko like forward player but I do not want someone who can play in a 10 who might take any pitch time away from Alex. Fair play to him. I am astonished to find myself regarding him as one of my favourite players in the team. COYB.
Raymond Fox
18 Posted 21/09/2022 at 15:22:57
He has become a player that is a must play in all our League games. He's has found his best position and has become twice the player he was.

Whether its happened by accident or design I don't know, I would imagine and like to think it was Frank's idea.
Peter Brogan
19 Posted 21/09/2022 at 15:26:20
Not rocket science this one. Finally played him in his correct position and his confidence is mega high now. Frank simply said play like you do in training. You don't go through the Arsenal academy since the age of 8 if there is no talent there. We're finally seeing it now and really pleased for him. UTFT
Brian Wilkinson
20 Posted 21/09/2022 at 15:30:23
I have always thought Iwobi,s weakness was being played out on the wing for so long, not one of Iwobi's strongest positions.

There is no doubt since being moved to his more favoured position, he has upped his game, this seems to have coincided when Lampard and the new regime came in, his work rate as well has increased, you can look at Richarlison and Pickford towards the end of last season, but I doubt not one single one of us, when we needed someone to stand up and get stuck in, Iwobi would not have been near the top of anyones list.

Credit to the player, he gave everything and did not hide, that has continued this season, if ever a player deserves high praise, then Iwobi deserves the very highest praise, and thank you from Evertonians.
Ray Robinson
21 Posted 21/09/2022 at 15:47:34
He's obviously a thoroughly decent bloke who thrives on confidence and his transformation has been remarkable. But, and it's a big but as far as I'm concerned, he still needs to improve his productivity. He has virtually no goal threat (except against Wolves!) and, for all his enthusiastic charging around the pitch like a little school kid, rarely puts the opposition player under any real physical pressure.

So for me, it's a massive improvement but he still needs more end product before I'll rave about him. He's one of those players though who I really want to see make it at the highest level. His effort, non-complaining attitude and sheer determination to succeed is an example to others and I'll forever be grateful for that injury-time goal against Newcastle, which in its way, was important as DCL's winner against Palace.
Jay Harris
22 Posted 21/09/2022 at 16:13:42
I love the improvement in Alex Iwobi's performances but I still question where our goals are coming from. We have Onana Gueye and Iwobi none of whom looks to be able to contribute goals from MF. We have Gordon and Gray who may contribute 10 between them so something has to give as we can't expect 30 goals from our lone striker.
Nicolas Piñon
23 Posted 21/09/2022 at 16:50:59
Great article Lyndon!

I was in England when Iwobi arrived at Everton. I was made up. I always liked players with tricks and flicks and I used to think Iwobi was one of those. An Arsenal friend told me he would be good for us and on YouTube videos (and some live matches) I saw a players that could really lift crowds up. I saw his first match on a blue shirt (at Villa if I'm right and then at Lincoln City and vs. Wolves). It looked great at the beginning.

Gladly he is now performing to his better levels and people are very happy with him. As some said, I think the critics came because of his over inflated price tag, but that wasn't his fault.

Anyway, I still think he has more to offer. Not that I expect it desperately, but when I saw him at Arsenal he was more aggresive and skillfull to what we've seen at Everton yet. Don't think he's lost that. Maybe hell keep surprising us. I-WONT-BE missin'!
Tony Abrahams
24 Posted 21/09/2022 at 16:55:21
Good article Lyndon, and what a transformation by Iwobi, since he's been pushed inside and also has a few Londoners to relate to now at Finch Farm. My mate told me years ago, before the lockdown on the train to West Ham, that somebody he knew at Everton had told Iwobi exactly what was quoted in this article about Evertonians always getting behind any player who gives 100%.

I was told this story because it sounded like it had fell on cocky deaf ears, but Iwobi does look like a totally different player now the penny has dropped, although it was obvious watching him play that he didn't really have the belief when playing out wide. But now looks like a proper footballer, playing in a position that really suits him.

Kieran Kinsella
25 Posted 21/09/2022 at 16:59:19
John Daley, you make a good point on Frank dealing with the weak links and improving the likes of Iwobi. His time at Everton reminds me a bit of Nick Barmby. Both came in on big fees, neither did much of anything for a few years and took stick as a waste of money. Then in Barmby's last year he suddenly excelled so he could earn himself a move to the RS.

Hopefully that isn't Iwobi's plan lol. But I'd say that to Sam's point he has never lacked effort even when he was struggling. In that regard to me he is a bit like Oxade Chamberlain, someone who perhaps tries too hard sometimes and runs too much instead of taking a breath and making calmer decisions. He is now a lot calmer and thus more effective.
Dale Self
26 Posted 21/09/2022 at 17:04:34
Very nicely presented Lyndon! The point about James displacing him is key to the unproductive period. The statement on Everton fans backing you through the mistakes if you're giving 100% tells me his head is in the right place and is feeling the moment. Frank deserves the full credit for creating a system around his skills. And while you may be forgiven for focusing on his playmaker ability it is his tracking back that is making Frank's system work defensively.

I'm not one for stats but watching his performances I know he is responsible for disrupting and diverting offensive play much more than what is recorded. Gana does what he does, Onana just finds Iwobi and that midfield is reliably functional. Another striker and some determined running up front and there will be chances taken in the opponent's box.

UTFT! Up the Iwobi! Chuka! Chuka!
Mike Gaynes
27 Posted 21/09/2022 at 17:08:38
Lyndon, that's brilliantly written.

Alex always looked to me like a refugee from the Island of Misfit Toys, an obviously gifted athlete who would never fit in anywhere on a good team. Yet in those fun club site interviews with other players, when asked who dazzled them in training or had the best skills or could run forever or whatever, Iwobi's name would always pop out. And I would wonder how we never saw all that in a game.

Obviously the gamewinner against the Barcodes on the layoff from DCL was his breakout, but I truly understood what we had a couple of weeks later against... can't remember. Alex ran from the center circle to pressure the opposing right back on the ball. He then chased across to their left back for more pressure. The opponent moved the ball back to their right flank and launched an attack down our left side. And here came Alex, galloping 80 yards diagonally across the pitch, hair flying in the wind, blowing past Doucoure and Allan, and on arrival sticking in a foot to halt the attack. He had covered 160 yards in something like 18 seconds. The conditioning, the passion, and the sheer joy of his body language just shouted to the whole of Goodison. And right through my TV screen. Unforgettable.

That's when Alex became irreplaceable in my view.

Tony Everan
28 Posted 21/09/2022 at 17:21:13
Brilliant article Lyndon,

As you say …Any player who runs through a brick wall for Everton FC will earn the respect of the fans. Iwobi is doing it week in and week out and coupled with his natural control and skill is great to see. He is a player that is thriving under Frank Lampard. I think we will see some goals from him too as the team settles into a rhythm. I think now his teammates react and feed of his energy and desire, it's infectious.

He is a humble player and a team player so if he keeps focusing on doing the business like he is now he is going to be very influential and one of the first names on the team sheet.

Bill Watson
29 Posted 21/09/2022 at 17:34:38
Farhad can certainly spot a player! Sorry,John #14 but I couldn't resist!!

I once posted asking just what was the point of Iwobi and commented that it was no good being the best player at Finch Farm if you were useless when selected. I looked at team announcements in the hope Iwobi WASN'T in the side or even on the bench. Now I look in the hope he's fit and selected. Full marks to both the player himself and for Lampard in, mostly, playing him in his best position.

We should also pay tribute to the guy who tied himself to the goal post v Newcastle. If he hadn't have done so Iwobi wouldn't have scored in the 98th minute, would probably never have morphed into the undroppable player he is today and we'd probably have been relegated.

It's a funny old game!
Jeff Armstrong
30 Posted 21/09/2022 at 18:01:53
I don't think any of us needs to beat ourselves up about being wrong about Iwobi. We were in fact all quite correct in calling out his ineffective performances from a player who cost £28 million. There was the odd decent game against lower opposition in cup games, but he was obviously a confidence player who was very low on any confidence with being in and out the team, playing here there and everywhere except his preferred position, and the crowd on his case.

There was one game after a decent international performance where he got his wish and Ancellotti played him in a central position pushing up from midfield. It lasted about 10 minutes as we got an injury and he was once again messed about.

The turnaround since Lampard arrived has been miraculous. Frank obviously believes in him, trusts him in his preferred position, which in turn has given the lad confidence, coupled with the fans now singing his name he has grown and grown. He is now a first pick and a fan favourite...redemption indeed.
Brent Stephens
31 Posted 21/09/2022 at 18:03:59
Thank you, Lyndon.

Informative - "his charitable foundation, Project 17, is branching out with a new partnership aimed at helping immigrants and people from different backgrounds integrate into their new communities via sport". Good stuff, Alex.

The confidence thing is interesting. It sounds as if, in the past, that has been a limitation. It might now be that confidence is less of an issue for him.

Anyway, the lad has stuck at it through all the different, often unreasonable, demands on him. We need to stick with him, surely, he has some less impressive games.
Tony Hill
35 Posted 21/09/2022 at 18:28:46
His involvement in the goal against West Ham is notable. He was twice pivotal in what was an excellent move from Coady onwards. Looking back at his time with us, he has often been crucial to some of our best work. He has the best football brain in our current team by a margin.
Roger Helm
36 Posted 21/09/2022 at 19:13:16
It seems so obvious in retrospect, doesn't it? All his career he has not scored many goals, and doesn't have the explosive speed and/or power to be a top forward, but on the other hand he does have abundant skill on the ball and is a good passer - so why not play him deeper where he can contribute more? Well done Frank for seeing what your predecessors missed, and for the man-management to give him the confidence to fulfil his potential.
Anthony Dove
38 Posted 21/09/2022 at 20:26:53
Not sure which is the real Iwobi. Iwobi 1 or Iwobi 2. Probably somewhere in the middle. For me there is not enough end product and I will judge him again at the end of the season. From a humanitarian point of view I am pleased he is no longer receiving the abuse he once did, although much of it was not misplaced.
Paul Birmingham
39 Posted 21/09/2022 at 20:43:15
What a transformation of a player, and he's playing with such confidence and natural ability.

Everton are blessed to have his skills and reading of the game, and this season for the first time, in a very long time, Everton are looking like a real team. Long may it last and what great resolve and spirit from Iwobi, to turn his form around.

Well done Lampard and his team for coaching Iwobi to realise his potential.

Ben King
40 Posted 21/09/2022 at 21:18:28
Really good article and very apt to recognise the complete turn around : from fringe player to key cog in our midfield He’s done so well. I wonder if he can add 5-10 goals a season for us too? If he can then he’ll be even more fantastic for us I wouldn’t bet against it….
Peter Moore
41 Posted 21/09/2022 at 22:27:16
Heart, application and an abundance of talent has Mr Iwobi. Thank heavens Super Frankie Lampard has enabled him to flourish. Long may Alex Iwobi grace Goodison Park and onward to Bramley Moore Dock. Onwards and upwards toffees.
John Raftery
42 Posted 21/09/2022 at 00:12:45
An excellent summary of the player's development since he joined us. For me he was a player who had the attributes to be successful but lacked conviction. I recall Marcel Brands saying at the 2020 AGM he had been signed not only to cover the wide attacking positions but also to offer competition to Sigurdsson in the number ten role.

As it turned out Iwobi was never suited to a wide attacking position especially in a team which moved the ball through midfield at a pedestrian pace. In a squad with Sigurdsson as the first choice focal point in the attacking midfield areas finding the best position was something which seemed to puzzle managers. Ancelotti commented in one media conference to the effect he looked forward to the player telling him what his best position was.

That said, all our managers were keen to use Alex when he was available. I recall Duncan Ferguson, then assisting Silva, hugging him after a through pass set up Sidibé for an assist in a win at Southampton. Ancelotti tried him at wing back with some success, most notably in a 3-2 win Fulham. Even Benitez, not renowned for tender loving care, went out of his way to praise him in front of the away fans after the League Cup win at Huddersfield.

Now that he has been given a regular starting berth in a position which allows him to use his athleticism and passing skills he has blossomed. I am delighted for the player and for the club.

Ian Hollingworth
45 Posted 23/09/2022 at 14:24:49
I don’t mind admitting I had written him off and never wanted to see him in a blue shirt again and I wasn’t on my own. Confidence is massive and is playing a big part in his transformation to what we are seeing now. Credit has to go to Frank and his coaching team and of course to Iwobi himself but wow, what a player we are seeing now.
Olalekan Taofik
46 Posted 23/09/2022 at 23:10:32
Thank you all for those nice comments about my transformed countryman Alexandra (jayjay) Iwobi. He is transformed.

I just hope he will improve on his shooting ability especially from 20 to 25yards. He's not selfish with balls and like to run into open spaces, untiring.

Keep it up guy and stay free from injury during the international break.
Mark Andersson
47 Posted 24/09/2022 at 06:55:44
Great read.. Support your players help with their confidence... simple
Christine Foster
48 Posted 25/09/2022 at 05:37:44
Excellent article Lyndon, I think 95% of ToffeeWeb readers are shaking their heads in collective admiration, all be it a stunned, disbelief at his transformation. He deserves the plaudits but where has he been the last few years? One has to say that his form has to be the result of the manager bringing the best out of a written off player. Fair do.. brilliant.

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