Alex Iwobe: England might rue letting Arsenal talent slip through their grasp

The 19-year-old impressed both in the Champions League against Barcelona and then the 2-0 win over Everton

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The Independent Football

Saturday at Goodison Park was another milestone in the rapid development of an exciting young Arsenal talent. For Alex Iwobi, it was the afternoon of his first league start and the fact that he marked it with his first senior goal in a 2-0 win completed a memorable week for the 19-year-old, who had made his Champions League debut at the Nou Camp.

The pity for English football, though, is that Iwobi’s very next act was to board a flight bound for Nigeria. The Lagos-born Arsenal academy product chose to represent Nigeria, having previously played for England at Under-16, -17 and -18 level, and the Super Eagles’ gain is England’s loss, according to Arsène Wenger.

In the Arsenal manager’s eyes, the Football Association missed a trick by not selecting Iwobi, who made his full debut for Nigeria in October, for the Under-19 team. “He played for the England youth teams for a while, [but] after the Under-19s didn’t pick him.”

On Saturday’s evidence the nephew of former Nigeria captain Jay-Jay Okocha is a player of real promise – he had pace, awareness and plenty of confidence and he might have had more than the goal he scored to double his team’s lead just before half-time. “He’s humble and we hope he remains humble because there is still a lot to work on, but he is a great talent,” added Wenger.

Arsenal’s other scorer was Danny Welbeck, who is available to England and who has struck four times in nine games since returning from a long-term knee injury. “Of course we missed him,” said Wenger. “You cannot say you don’t miss a player of that stature for eight months. We have to be cautious with him. I pushed it today because I knew it was now or never.”

Wenger spoke too about the need to “get the fans behind us with our attitude” after the recent wave of criticism, but Arsenal supporters would be wise not to read too much into Saturday’s victory.

Everton’s manager, Roberto Martinez, might have stressed that “the performance is a one-off” but the result was anything but. The team have lost eight of their 16 home league games, winning four. Unfortunately for Farshad Moshiri, the new major shareholder watching in the Main Stand, this was a more accurate picture than the rousing FA Cup victory over Chelsea he had witnessed on his first visit.