THE celebrations for Arsenalâ€™s third goal were beyond what you might expect to see in pre-season. The cheer that little bit louder for a first-time left-footed finish of real quality that had them purring even on the replay. Alex Iwobi is already causing a stir.
Pre-season is a time when fans crave the unfamiliar and the crowds at Arsenal havenâ€™t always been treated to it at the Emirates Cup. Two years ago, the boos that greeted the team when 2-0 down at half-time against Napoli were as much a reflection of the clubâ€™s transfer inertia as the scoreline.
But despite no new signings featuring in the starting line-up against Lyon on Saturday â€“ Petr Cech was among the substitutes â€“ a stunning first-half performance of energy, purpose and four goals without reply ensured a feeling of optimism accompanied the day for Gunners fans.
Iwobi was the name on many lips. Playing from the left and linking up well with Olivier Giroud, the 19-year-old appeared tentative in front of goal in the early stages, but any suggestions that he lacked confidence were soon dispelled.
With a piece of skill that might have been honed in a garden near Bolton when visiting his uncle Jay-Jay Okocha, Iwobi dragged the ball first one way and then the other to fool Jordan Ferri and draw gasps from the 59,801 crowd.
There was substance to go with the style too. Even aside from his aforementioned goal – an instinctive finish with his weaker foot – he used the ball effectively and, just as he had on the clubâ€™s summer tour of Singapore, more than justified his inclusion.
â€œI like his team attitude, his movement,â€ said Arsene Wenger of Iwobiâ€™s efforts there. â€œWe have a game based on movement and speed, and he integrates that very well. He has good power and is usually efficient â€“ he scores goals a lot.â€
Just before the hour mark, there was a stepover to get beyond his marker and to the by-line, and Iwobi was rewarded with a standing ovation when substituted shortly afterwards. He had made an impression and there was more praise from the manager as well.
Speaking about all the youngsters involved in the squad, he said: â€œOne of the advantages of pre-season games like that, itâ€™s competitive and a good opportunity to see young talents. You could see that because they practise with us they can integrate well.â€
But while the likes of Chuba Akpom and Jeff Reine-Adelaide might have to go elsewhere in search of first-team football, itâ€™s telling that Wenger has other plans for the Arsenal No 45. â€œSome players might go out on loan but Alex Iwobi will stay with us,â€ he added.
So what next? Supporters need only turn their thoughts to Yaya Sanogo and his four goals against Benfica in this tournament one year ago to appreciate the dangers of supposing this is a reliable indicator of whatâ€™s to come in the season proper.
But itâ€™s tempting to think Iwobi is different. As Wenger suggested, unlike the French striker, the teenager fits in and looks at home in the build-up play. Whether communicating with team-mates or in his positional play, there seems more to his game than the mere physical.
Iwobi made the Arsenal bench for their Champions League tie against Galatasaray in December but can expect to get rather closer to the action this coming season â€“ particular given the likelihood that Alexis Sanchez will be eased back after his Copa America exertions.
On this evidence, despite the demand for new signings and the talk of a Â£200m transfer kitty ready and waiting to be spent, Iwobiâ€™s increased involvement in 2015/16 ought to be a cause for excitement not concern among Arsenal fans. – SkySports