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Will the shackles finally come off for Alex Iwobi at Fulham?

 


It’s hard to believe that Alex Iwobi is only 27 given that the Nigerian international has been playing in the Premier League for almost a decade. It was back in 2015 when Iwobi made his debut for Arsenal and at the time, the feeling was that Arsene Wenger had uncovered the club’s next prodigious talent. 

Iwobi battles to reach the heights expected of him  

Ultimately, it was a tag that Iwobi couldn't live up to, and in 2019, the Gunners cut their losses and sold the midfielder to Everton after he was courted by then-Toffees manager Marco Silva. 

Still, Iwobi’s four-year spell on Merseyside did not kickstart his career to the extent many hoped it would. Admittedly, it didn’t help that Silva was fired four months after signing Iwobi from Arsenal but overall, the Nigerian’s time at Goodison Park will be remembered mostly for clove shaves with relegation and persistent injury. 

Mercifully, fate seemingly intervened in the summer of 2023 to bring an end to four seasons of frustration as Silva once again recruited Iwobi, this time to Fulham.

Silva swoops for Iwobi again 

The omens on this occasion are far more optimistic for Iwobi. To start with, Fulham aren’t tipped to go down as the latest relegation odds at Nairabet Nigeria clearly demonstrate with the Cottagers at +500. Conversely, Everton are at just +200 to be relegated.

Another positive sign is that Silva is revered at Craven Cottage and won’t be moved on anytime soon after the Portuguese manager turned down $50 million to join Saudi Arabian club Al-Ahli in July. 

This rare show of loyalty has earned Silva a substantial amount of credit in the bank with the powers that be at Fulham which means that Iwobi should now get to work under a manager who has total conviction in his ability.

This much-needed vote of confidence in Iwobi from Silva has already paid dividends after the 27-year-old scored and assisted in Fulham's third-round Carabao Cup win over Norwich in late September. 


While it is too early in Iwobi’s career at Fulham to say with absolute certainty that he is finally fulfilling the potential that so many thought he possessed at the start of his career, the initial indications are nevertheless promising. 

Like uncle, like nephew 

Perhaps what is most important is that Iwobi seems to have a smile on his face again while out on the pitch. Playing with a sense of joy and gratitude is what Iwobi’s uncle and Nigerian great Jay-Jay Okocha has encouraged his nephew to do ever since he became a professional.

Okocha was of course renowned for his cheerfulness and exhuberance when he had a ball at his feet which assisted in making him one of the Premier League’s most exciting imports in its history.


Undoubtedly, Okocha’s inherent sense of happiness made the game easier for him owing to how much he enjoyed playing football; do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.

Iwobi’s task after years of struggling to make his mark is to finally take his uncle's advice and play without shackles. This will now be made easier as he is working under a manager who has absolute faith in him; there is no need for Iwobi to doubt himself anymore.


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