As Everton prepare for the visit of Crystal Palace tomorrow before the Premier League winter break, could Alex Iwobi play a key role in Carlo Ancelotti’s rebuilding programme?
The ex-Arsenal man has had an underwhelming start to his Everton career. He couldn’t find form and consistency, (like so many other players), during the first half of the campaign and then just as Ancelotti took over, he suffered an injury in front of his new manager, playing that day against his former club.
Part of the reason for these problems was perhaps an inevitable adjustment when he joined a new club, team and manager after having spent his entire career previously at the Gunners.
The Toffees were also a side struggling badly for form and confidence as the season progressed, under then manager Marco Silva. There was a lack of direction and certainty as Silva tried different players in different positions in the ultimately vain search for a winning formula.
So Iwobi was shuffled about playing wide and sometimes more centrally, without ever getting a consistent place and position in the team. None of this probably helped him settle.
However, with Ancelotti now firmly ensconced in the Everton dugout, Iwobi like other players has to take his chance to impress his new boss and secure his future at the club.
In light of this the Liverpool Echo has been analysing Iwobi’s contributions last season and what they have come up with makes for interesting reading.
In particular the piece underlines how effective Iwobi is at running with the ball and creating chances through his probing passing.
He also ranks highly in terms of the number of secondary balls he plays. In other words how often his passing leads to an assist for a goal. That underlines his creativity and capacity to make things happen when the ex-Arsenal man is played in the right sort of position.
Iwobi doesn’t shoot much, something Everton fans have found out, and so he is unlikely to score more than a couple of goals a season. But, when he used right, he does seem to be able to consistently deliver good quality ball for his forwards to use.
On the basis of the Echo’s statistical analysis, Iwobi would seem to best suit a central position, perhaps in a 4-3-3. That though seems unlikely given that Ancelotti wants to play a 4-4-2 system, which would probably mean that Andre Gomes, when he is fit, would play alongside either Morgan Schniederlin, Gylfi Sigurdsson or maybe Mason Holgate..?
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There’s also the question of where Bernard would fit in. Ancelotti has given the Brazilian the freedom to cut inside from a wider position or play off the forwards and so that also presumably means Iwobi would have to find another position.
So perhaps he could play tucked in on the left hand side with a brief to come inside carry the ball forward and provide those penetrating passes.
But it does seem as though the Nigerian can offer something that none of the Blues other players do, a midfielder who carries the ball with pace, power and conviction and can create plenty of half chances as well as direct assists.
I think it’s important for Ancelotti to have a really good look at his younger players before he and the club embark on another expensive summer spending spree. Individuals like Iwobi are one of those who he will presumably give a chance to impress. Lets see if he can take it.