There is so much noise in the world of Arsenal Football Club at the moment. We are in full crisis mode, or so the media would have you believe. Out of the Champions League in the last 16, again. Players demanding the earth for contracts when a club is at its weakest, again. The manager under fire from a run of bad, no terrible results, again. It feels like we’ve been here so many times over the years and yet still found a way to get into the top 4 and win a few trophies along the way. This season feels a little different, however, as the fans from all areas have begun to turn. Not in the poisonous way that AFTV would have you believe, but there is a resignation around the club as to how Wenger’s tenure is about to draw to an end. In amongst all of this commotion there is a young footballer who needs attention. Wenger has been fighting fires left right and centre creating a blinkered view of proceedings and those blinkers are blinding the smaller, more delicate problems. There is a young man who has the weight of the world on his shoulders. There is a young man who has come of age, and yet has been thrown into the cross-hairs of Arsenal fans. Alex Iwobi is in danger of never being found again.
His talent is undoubted. He’s stepped up in big games, he’s had responsibility thrust upon him at a young age and dealt with it magnificently to begin with as the pressure was off. What was a well-managed situation by Wenger has turned into a bit of a mess in all honesty. Iwobi needs to be taken out of the firing line for big games from time to time, especially when there are others to call on with more experience and a squad that actually has some depth to it exists. He’s started a lot of big, big games: Bayern, Chelsea, Liverpool (A) in recent weeks where we full well knew that pace was going to be key and with the likes of Walcott, Perez and Alexis left out for him in different instances, there is most definitely some miss-management going on. A young man of the age of 20 should not be subject to that much pressure, that early in his career. Yes this may be how Lionel Messi was discovered in terms of being thrust into the limelight early on, however it needs to be a little more measured. Within the Barcelona team that Messi was introduced, he was surrounded by superstars everywhere he looked so the pressure was lessened. When Iwobi looks around, it’s not quite the same. In fact the pressure is well and truly on him to try and make the difference, which is unfair when there are plenty of senior players shirking their responsibilities. Too much to ask of a man so young.
It boils down to Arsene Wenger. It’s not Alex Iwobi’s fault that he’s being picked. You can see that he’s a really nice guy who loves the club and really wants to do well, however you can also see that the spurned chances and the mistakes he makes play on his mind tremendously, simply because he cares so damn much. The fan base doesn’t help and I’ve alluded to this previously in that players nowadays are always connected and so will see the abuse and vitriol chucked their way. Iwobi hasn’t escaped some of the more critical portion of the fan base and it has to be said that this is down to Arsene Wenger throwing him to the Lions a little bit. We live in a world where the fans who don’t turn up week in week out, have a direct impact on a players’ performance. It’s that social media bubble of trolling once again and the younger players, no in fact all players are susceptible to criticism whether it’s justified or not when things aren’t going so well. It is therefore Arsene Wenger’s responsibility to shield the younger players from that. It is harder for him to do this when the whole squad needs protecting, which is what’s been happening in recent weeks.
Iwobi is slowly approaching that dangerous territory of being overplayed and being relied upon too heavily, with not too many leaders and points of inspiration around him. With the squad facing so much uncertainty with player contracts and manager unrest, it’s no wonder the likes of Iwobi are out there fending for themselves. What used to be a direct and carefree approach has become one of second guessing and apprehension. The spark is still there because he massively cares about the club, but the manager needs to ensure that it isn’t extinguished and we lose yet another ray of hope for the future of our great club. Let’s get that #BIG17 back.