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Alex Iwobi: why does he perform well for Nigeria but struggle at Everton?

Super Eagles star midfielder Alex Iwobi has undoubtedly improved on his performances from last season, more so earlier in the year when he grasped the nettle to offer pristine play across several positions for Everton.

However, towards the dying embers of this campaign, the 2019 Afcon bronze medalist has come under the spotlight with displays that were generally seen as average at best and sub-par at worst. In Everton's last 15 games - 3 of which he was benched and 1 in which he was omitted from the match day squad altogether - Iwobi tried hard to hit recent dizzy heights with mild to moderate successes, if any at all.

He has lately found goals, assists and pre-assists to be scarce commodities in club football.

However, the high-water mark of Iwobi's overall productivity this season was his admirable show of versatility that now shines a favourable light on an aspect of his game hitherto hidden from view. It must have felt like trial by fire in November 2020 when Ancelloti asked Iwobi to play wingback against Fulham at Craven Cottage. It was a trial in which Iwobi acquitted himself with aplomb without even needing the services of a solicitor.

He would go on in subsequent games to establish himself across different formations (3-4-3, 4-3-3 and even the traditional 4-4-2) in multiple positions, sometimes switching positions seamlessly within games. His application in those games had this sumptuous savoir faire about it.

Men! I loved Iwobi's output at this time as I would be glued to my telly watching what seemed to me at the time was the rebirth of a potential Premier League legend.

Unfortunately, a whole 17 games after he last found the back of the net against Wolves on January 12, things appear to have steadily gone south for Iwobi and I just can't put my fingers on why.

In my view, he was at his elements mid-season when playing multiple positions. But, curiously, coach Ancelloti appears to blame his own constant formation changes as a factor for Iwobi's drop in form.

"In other games I tried to change a little bit the didn’t work well but not for Iwobi's fault," said Ancelloti who in the same statement praised Iwobi's overall contributions.

But with just 1 goal and 2 assists across 28 league games this season, Iwobi is on track to potentially be named among the yo-yo players of the 20/21 English league season having made the Premier League top 11 flop signings of last season (following his move from Arsenal with a slew of Gunners' fans only too happy to see the back of him) .

But Nigeria fans don't care, why should we? After all, this same season, the same Iwobi already has 2 goals in 4 appearances for the Super Eagles. What is utterly astonishing is that in the last 2 seasons, Iwobi has scored more goals in far fewer matches for Nigeria in international football than for Everton in the English Premier League matches: 2 goals in 53 league matches for Everton and 3 goals across just 9 games for the Super Eagles in the same period.

This antithesis or should I use the word dichotomy is difficult for me to explain. Little wonder Iwobi fans would bite your head off at the slightest form of criticism directed his way (however subtle or well intentioned it may be)!

When playing for the national team, Iwobi is always one with Nigeria and Nigerian fans will forever be one with him. He plays with freedom, verve and boundless energy that unleash superior performance which in turn attain dependable results for us.

If he were to retire today, Iwobi has done enough (in many quarters) to be regarded as a Nigeria legend. If he were to retire from club football at the same time, I doubt if international club football observers would see him in such glowing splendour.

And I think that is something Iwobi himself will be eager to put right. The former Arsenal man would not want to be remembered as an average-bordering-on-mediocre club player who displayed chronic inconsistency in his (club) playing days in the English Premier League

Far from it. Iwobi will want to go down as an English Premier League legend. And I believe he has it in him in abundance, after all, his skills, attributes, attitude and hunger have never been in doubt.

These same elements have produced a cult following for Iwobi in national team football, it is now time this is recreated in club football (consistently).

Funnily, we always pray for players to replicate their club form in national colours. In Iwobi, the reverse is the case!

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