After arriving in a £34m deal from Arsenal last summer, it’s fair to say Alex Iwobi hasn’t exactly shown why Everton splashed out big-money to sign him.
The Nigeria international endured a difficult debut season on Merseyside, playing regularly under Marco Silva, before falling out of favour following Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment – he completed the full 90 minutes just once under the Italian’s stewardship in the Premier League.
And with just two goals and one assist to his name in 29 games across all competitions, it was difficult to see just what kind of player the Toffees had gotten themselves in Iwobi, especially given that he played all of his games either as a left or right-winger or as a number ten.
It was telling that at the announcement of his signing, Silva declared: “Alex was one of our main targets for this window and I believe he is a fantastic signing. He is a direct and skilful winger and attacking midfielder who always works very hard.
“Alex fits exactly the profile of player I want. He is hungry to join Everton and take the next step in his career, to help us compete with the strongest teams in the league and reach his potential at our club.”
Whilst it may have only been Fleetwood Town in the Carabao Cup, and it’s vital not to get too carried away, you couldn’t help but feel that Iwobi’s time may finally be here.
Replacing James Rodriguez as part of Everton’s first-choice front three, the 24-year-old looked in supreme touch. Aside from getting on the score-sheet and setting up one of Richarlison’s strikes, Iwobi was as influential as he has ever been for the Toffees.
As per Sofascore, he had 78 touches, provided three key passes (only Richarlison had more), and completed a game-high four dribbles. This was Iwobi at his most “direct” like Silva thought he was initially getting, and he constantly tried to take the game to Fleetwood.
Whilst permanently keeping Rodriguez out of the starting line-up looks out of the question for now, Ancelotti may feel that the Nigerian could be useful as part of a midfield trio and having the ability to drive the team forward with his dribbling.
What is clear though, is that Iwobi finally showed the kind of performance that vindicated Silva’s decision to sign him for the club.