Alex Iwobi is fast becoming Carlo Ancelotti’s key man at Everton through the Nigerian forward’s consistency in a variety of roles.
The ex-Arsenal attacker featured in his fourth set position of the season so far as the Toffees beat Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday, with Ancelotti calling on Iwobi to start at right-wing in the absence of James Rodriguez.
Ancelotti confirmed ahead of the visit of Frank Lampard’s title-chasing Blues that Rodriguez would play no part, having failed to train at all in the week leading up to the game after developing an issue during the prior 1-1 draw at Burnley.
Iwobi had big shoes to fill in covering for Rodriguez, who ranks among the best players in the Premier League for key passes (26) and big chances created (7) so far this season, per SofaScore.
Iwobi was not the best player of the pitch by any means, with Mason Holgate, Yerry Mina, Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey weathering a relentless storm to ensure Jordan Pickford retained his clean sheet.
Abdoulaye Doucoure battled through in the engine room to fluster Chelsea as often as he could, while Gylfi Sigurdsson repaid Ancelotti’s faith with a busy afternoon capitalised by keeping his cool to slot home the decisive penalty.
Iwobi, though, combined an aggressive effort with commitment going forward and tracking back, registering two interceptions, one clearance, eight ground duels, two aerial duels and five successful dribble attempts from five, per SofaScore.
Ancelotti will have been delighted to see Iwobi step in and thrive in a tough environment, but take greater satisfaction in seeing the Nigerian take to another role after an excellent showing at right-back against Burnley.
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Iwobi, who Silva lauded as being “hungry” to take the next step in his career with Everton, initially started at right-midfield at Turf Moor but was soon moved to an outright defensive position with Ancelotti forced to go four-at-the-back following Fabian Delph’s withdrawal through injury.
In the hour Iwobi played at right-back, he offered two dribbles, three tackles and an interception, per WhoScored, while playing 47 passes – only centre-back Mina (48) played more for the visiting side.
Iwobi will likely find that his place in the line-up is among the first to go should Rodriguez be passed fit to face Leicester City on Wednesday night or, failing that, Arsenal on Saturday. But the Nigerian is fast becoming Ancelotti’s key man, one the Italian is confident he can turn to in moments of need and not be massively let down by.