We assess the lay of the land and look ahead: what factors could influence how things pan out for the Nigeria international?
Review of 2021/22
The 2021/22 season was a tale of two halves for Alex Iwobi. Under Rafa Benitez, the midfielder struggled to find consistent minutes in the Everton team and was almost exclusively used in a wide role as the Toffees suffered through a torrid season.
The turning point for his season would come, ironically, while he was away on international duty with Nigeria. While he ultimately saved them from relegation, the appointment of Frank Lampard did not drastically alter the club’s state of health. It did, however, seem to bring a higher, more consistent level of performance out of Iwobi, who has started 15 of Everton’s final 17 matches, helping them beat the drop on the penultimate matchday of the season.
On the whole, Iwobi accrued three goals and three assists in all competitions.
State of play
Everton are a team in dire need of investment in order to avoid a repeat of last season. Their preseason results have been far from encouraging overall (although they did beat Shakhtar Donetsk on Friday night), and manager Lampard has made no secret of his desire for reinforcements.
If there is any upside to this, it is that Iwobi’s place within the team is under even less threat. While the team performances have been middling, the 25-year-old has largely acquitted himself well, and looks to be carrying the same momentum from the latter half of last term into this one.
Big question: Will he finally get a run in his preferred position/role?
While Iwobi did play quite a bit centrally following Lampard’s arrival, he was quickly pressed into action once more as a wing-back as the manager went to a back three system to batten down the hatches.
The good news, if preseason is anything to go by, is that Iwobi has mostly played in central midfield. Long may it continue.
What can he improve?
Positioning and spatial awareness out of possession. One of the potential pitfalls of playing centrally is that you’ll have to conduct your business in a more congested area. Iwobi definitely has the skill and touch to make this work on the ball, so he will relish that.
Without the ball, however, there is some work to do in terms of his defensive instincts. Specifically being where he needs to be to keep the team compact and screen passes into opposing forwards. His work rate and application is fine, but that awareness and anticipatory positioning will need to be sharpened, as no level of physical investment can make it up consistently.
What would constitute a good season?
It seems like it will be a 3-4-3 for Lampard’s Everton this term, with Iwobi and Abdoulaye Doucoure as the midfield pairing. This probably means they will alternate stepping forward, and so a priority for Iwobi, beyond keeping his place in the starting lineup, will be improving his numbers, specifically for assists. He certainly has the tools for it.
Appearances: >30 starts (all competitions)
Goals: >5 (all competitions)
Assists: 10 (all competitions)