Could Iwobi be Arsenal's new Cazorla?

By Simon Rose

He's more suited than you might think

With Santi Cazorla having more Achilles surgery, putting him at real risk of missing the rest of the season again, thoughts have inevitably turned to the question of who can replace him for Arsenal long term. Jack Wilshere has been mooted as a potential successor, partly as a reason for bringing him back from Bournemouth for a fresh contract. But the nearest I see to a Cazorla type already at the club is Alex Iwobi.

Santi missed much of last season and Arsenal suffered for it. His ability to set the pace of Arsenalís play from deep midfield meant immediately that last seasonís title hopes disappeared with his absence. Arsenal are just not the same without Cazorla. Cut to this season and more long-term absence from Cazorla can only mean one thing: Arsenal struggle to control midfield.

Santi is our metronome. Not our gnome thanks, our metronome! He sets the pace and tone to our play, as he is two-footed and that offers exceptional versatility. Santi has such sound natural technique that he is calm on the ball and that allows him to retrieve possession and recycle it to teammates, for Arsenal to keep possession and get back on the attack. To replace Santi, we need someone else who can do the same and that is not easy to find.

Thiago Alcantara feels like a possible fit but I donít see enough of his game to know if he is two-footed and frankly he is at Bayern Munich and would have little motivation to leave there to join Arsenal. Toni Kroos feels like he'd settle into our side nicely, but would he leave Real Madrid for us? Ozil did, so there has to be potential, especially if Ozil stays. But the easiest option to replace Santi long term surely comes from within.

I like Wilshere and I do hope that he has a future at this club, but Iím not sure anyone can say for sure what type of midfielder Wilshere is. Some like Wilshere as a deep-lying retriever, some prefer Jack as a box-to-box wizard weaving through the lines. Some see Jack as a number 10 and bemoan that he gets little chance there due to Mesut Ozil. Personally I think part of Jackís struggle at Arsenal over the years, apart from injuries, is that his sheer versatility weakens his case in any particular position. Heís never staked a vehement claim for any position.

Personally I think Wilshere is too one-footed to replace Santi. Cazorla Ė and Arteta before him Ė has made the Arsenal anchor role one of quick distribution. Wilshere holds onto the ball just that bit too long. That in itself has seen him draw late challenges, incurring long-term injuries of his own. Not only am I unconvinced that Jack could replace Santi as a player, but I doubt he would stay fit enough for long enough to hold onto the role in any case.

Iwobi, on the other hand, ticks all the boxes for me. If your first thought is that Iwobi is purely an attacking player Ė as a winger or a number 10 Ė and hence not suited to an anchor role, donít forget that is exactly how we first played Cazorla. I wasnít enamoured when Santi first shifted deeper in the team, as I felt that he and we would lose too much from him offensively. But Santi brought his technique and intelligence to the anchor role and settled into it. For me, the same could be said of Iwobi.

Iwobi shares Santiís gift for two-footed intelligent technique. He can shift the ball between both feet with ease. He is comfortable on either side and can create or recycle the ball as a natural. While I wouldnít want to lose Iwobi as a versatile attacking force I didnít want to lose that from Santi either, yet there is no doubt that Cazorla has been a success played from deep, opening up attacking paths in his wake for others in front of him, including Iwobi. While Alex might see his future in the attacking third of the field, he could be beautifully adept in the middle third.

To be two-footed means to offer 360 degrees of flexibility. The only player Arsenal currently have who rivals Cazorla for being equally balanced and comfortable on either foot is Alex Iwobi. He may want a future as an attacking force and that may yet be where he continues to flourish, with Arsenal locating a different long-term successor to Santi via the transfer market. But I can see the ideal versatility in Iwobi to be a fantastic midfield anchor, using his elegant technique to recycle the ball in all directions, to set the pace from deep into perceptive and incisive attacks.


26th January 2017 08:30:00


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Arseneknewbest  8:18am 26th Jan 2017

Could Wengo be Arsenal's new George Graham? Could atom and humber be Arsenal's new gunnersaurus? Could Jeff Reine-Adelaide be Arsenal's new Iwobi? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......Maybe more pertinent to ask why Cazorla remains injured, but why Jack has possibly already played more minutes for the cherries than he ever has for the Arsenal? The answer, unsurprisingly, is connected to the chihuahua of doom. Omens not looking good for the game on Saturday. I've drafted bouldo's press statement already, as follows - We didn't expect the mighty southampton to come at us so quickly. At least we pulled one back to make it 4-1 at half-time. But that effort cost us dearly and the lads did well to keep the deficit to single figures. Atom and Humber really lifted morale at half time, especially when one of them laid a 13 inch cable by the cocktail and vol-au-vent trolley. The gaffer has already been on the phone from Antibes to tell me that I'm getting sacked, but not until after we lose to Chelsea. - Post No. 103319

Bard  9:19am 26th Jan 2017

Iwobi looks useful and in a few years could be a top player. Who was the last young player that came through at Arsenal to became a top player? Cesc maybe or Bellerin. What is our track record on young players coming through? They stall or get injured mostly. If Iwobi wants to become a top player he needs to get a move to another club. Arsenal currently is graveyard for young players. Sadly Jack is finished in my book. He is playing at his right level now. As others have mentioned he looks overweight and in cruise mode. Also while Ozil is the playmaker there is no place for him. As an aside I read that Wenger is going to read the riot act to Granit for his Heathrow outburst and Granit is going to give Wenger a dressing down for his touchline outburst. Wonderful - Post No. 103320

Tony Evans  9:32am 26th Jan 2017

Good article Simon although I am sure it won't take long for the comments to descend into the usual boring Wenger in/out debate. Cazorla's absence does indeed make a big difference and for me only serves to highlight Ozil's inadequacies. Cazorla is the beating heart of the team, something that Ozil should be but rarely, if ever, is. As for Wilshire who knows? I would get rid but that's not Wenger's style: Jack, along with Wally, Ramsey etc are firm Wenger favourites and will be indulged as long as the status quo remains the same. I like Iwobi and he could slot in to the Cazorla role but I fear he will join a long list of players that Wenger has destroyed over the years. - Post No. 103321

Simon Prose  10:02am 26th Jan 2017

Another classic AKB Rose load of garbage today I see! After his epic "could Giroud and Perez be the new Bergkamp-Henry" (because they did alright against the mighty Preston LOL) Mr Head-in-bottom Rose doubles down! Could Iwobi be the new Cazorla? Maybe. Then again, he could be the new Christopher Wreh! Hahahaha the wonders never cease. Next week from Mr Rose: could Sanogo be our next mailroom assistant? - Post No. 103323

WeAreBuildingATeamToDominate  10:10am 26th Jan 2017

Wasn't it fun seeing Coco The Clown's loveable bunch of Bin Dippers getting it last night. Mind you we're next in line, so expect a long 90 minutes come Saturday. - Post No. 103324

John F  10:15am 26th Jan 2017

The homegrown rule is something the club has to keep an eye on .We have nine players who qaulify over 21 so we can afford to lose one which looks like it is going to be Jenkinson.Awobi can be included in May as he reaches 21 and with Jack back we can lose another two in the summer.The problem is the lack of good homegrown players available to buy .With this in mind Awobi Is a very valuable player to have in the sqaud.Jack,Macey,Coquelin, Martinez,Jenkins on,Welbeck,Wally,Ramsey,Gibbs ,the Ox.There is a case for clearing at least half out but it may not be practical to do so. - Post No. 103325

Leek the Squeak  10:17am 26th Jan 2017

If Arsenal beat Southampton or win 2-2 then it's because of the mighty Wengie. If Arsenal lose it's because everybody is picking on Wengie. Mr Wengie must stay for ever, unlike that pussy BBA who only wants 10 more years. Squeak, squeak.. Jeff can go sniff my cheese I've been storing it in my nest and it's sweating nicely, squeak, squeak.. - Post No. 103326

GS  10:21am 26th Jan 2017

No idea ref Iwobi/Carzola question. One things for sure we have seen the best of Carzola, trying to hang onto him coming back and giving us something extra is no longer viable, we need to work with what we have and for Wenger to sign new players, or maybe not if he will be leaving. Lets get through Feb, as that will tell us when our season is likely to end. - Post No. 103327

Redshirtswhitesleeves  10:23am 26th Jan 2017

I'm not sure if iwobi is being over hyped a little. I think he needs more games and more time to develop without the pressure of being labelled the 'new' this or that. Cazorla of course was developed elsewhere and thus presumably had the benefit of being properly coached somewhere along the line, something which Iwobi will not be getting under Wenger. Good luck to the lad, I like what I see but I can't say I'm thinking wow this kids a superstar in the making or anything like that - Post No. 103328

Roy  10:40am 26th Jan 2017

Have a word in Wengo's ear and see if he can tempt Will Ferrell from Liverpool. Well, he's played the role before hasn't he ? - Post No. 103329

Kenny  11:03am 26th Jan 2017

Just like Diaby was the new Vieira and Wally Walnutt was the new Henry.You couldnt make this garbage up - Post No. 103330

Leggys  11:20am 26th Jan 2017

You avin a bubble shirley ! - Post No. 103331

Ron  11:26am 26th Jan 2017

Hard to say what Iwobi is. Hes got a nice touch, movement and desire for football by the looks of him. Not sure hes got a strikers instinct really. Seems to fluff a good many chances. He could be more like a new Welbeck. I like the lad but hes at risk it seems to me of being another who does a bit of this or that and thus forges no fixed position or specialist expertise, an oft repeated Wenger 'footprint' left on quite a few players down the years. As for Cazorla, good player but rarely around these days. Best days have gone. Has he been a great success story at AFC? Not really in my view. Too much absence through injury and its been a shame for the guy. Hes one player when injured who we do actually miss! - Post No. 103332

Tony Evans  11:52am 26th Jan 2017

Ron - I tend to agree that, although I like Iwobi, he could become another player that never makes a position his own. We've had lots of them through the Wenger years, some purely down to Wenger's baffling team selections, but others that are just not good enough to boss any position and make it their own: Wally, Jack and Ramsey spring to mind straight away. Wenger, of course, compounds the problem by never facing up to the fact that the player concerned is not up to the job and needs shipping out. - Post No. 103333

Redshirtswhitesleeves  12:20pm 26th Jan 2017

Ron, Tony that's another of Wengers big faults. He loves players to be versatile to the extent he plays them all over the place, never nailing down their 'own' position, Xbox jack being the prime example. Thus we end up with chronic square pegs in round holes syndrome. I fear Iwobi is going to suffer the same fate, does anyone know what his best position is? - Post No. 103334

jjetplane  12:20pm 26th Jan 2017

Ah yes - smiling Santi and when was it he (like say a Pires) drove Arsenal on to win PLs. Next! The answer is Iwobi can be the next Santi if he just gets that annoying selfie pose right and takes most of the season off to be a tv chef on Spanish cable. - Post No. 103335

Paulo75  12:23pm 26th Jan 2017

Next up from Simon - Could the moon be made of cheese? - Post No. 103336

jeff wright  12:38pm 26th Jan 2017

We need a new manager not players trying to impersonate ones who have failed to win anything of any note with us. What is the point in trying to replicate failure>? A new impetus is required ,new tactics instead of tippy tappy sideways pass the parcel moves . A new medical regime ,the current one is still failing. Wally who is out again injured says that Wengo is all fired up giving impassioned speeches to the players in the changing room about how much he wants to win the title. If you believe that then you really will believe anything. It is rather odd though that he doesn't do any shouting at them during games but instead rants at match officials instead.You couldn't make it up. - Post No. 103338

Ron  12:40pm 26th Jan 2017

Tony/Redshirts....yes, its why in my view the job for a new Coach one one hand is a real bummer while on the other is a great job. Its a hiding to nothing job though in my view. Lots of players who themselves dont even know their best positions! Wenger over rates the players abilities. The players start to believe theyre all a cross between Cruyff, Krol, Baresi and Ronaldo, Wengs lets them revel in the delusion and we end up with a boat load of arrogant, flicking, fannying about, tip tap toe fancy dans who think the games are like non aggression fun games in a park at Butlins. I personally think quite a number will eventually be moved on. The conundrum for a new Coach is how many and how quick. Start with the Wally, the Willy, the Welly and the least Ramboish Rambo ive ever seen and take it from there i reckon. - Post No. 103339

Tony Evans  12:52pm 26th Jan 2017

RedShirts - You need a couple of versatile players that can do a decent job covering for injuries / suspensions but, as you say, Wenger takes this principle far too far. You get the feeling that when, for example, he's on the look out for a left / right back he's more concerned with how they perform going forward rather than their defensive capabilities. Ditto central defenders and holding midfielders. A Wenger striker has to be able to play out wide, and so it goes on. As you say as a consequence we end up with square pegs in round holes, and hardly any player that is the bees knees in one position only - central striker at the moment being a case in point. Is Perez a winger or a striker? Wenger clearly has no idea - whatever he is though he doesn't deserve to be behind Wally, Ramsey and the Ox in the first team pecking order. - Post No. 103340

mbg  14:02pm 26th Jan 2017

Here you go again rose tinted, talking crap about this one that one being the new somebody else, versatility, technique, etc, etc, even Tony Kroos (did you manage to keep a straight face there) the list to boring to mention goes on as if it matters, it doesn't, in your attempt to big up and cover your messiahs failings, and make it look as if he matters and is important in all of this, he's not, you can write all the boring blogs you like about form, pace, technique, flexibility, replacing ( at least you kept this brain fart short) because it'll make no difference and never will until your messiah pisses off (and then what you wright may matter)and we have a manager who under stands all these things and knows how and is willing to implement them, so you'd be better off sticking to that. We want wenger out now. - Post No. 103341

jjetplane  15:08pm 26th Jan 2017

More and more convinced Wenger's apparent show of passion is just a marketing ploy to inject some/any enthusiasm into a club dying in a sea of corporate banality. This talk of 'I am passionate about football' show he most certainly is not. No passionate coach has to tell prople he is passionate. You can see in their matchday behaviour. If fiddling with your duvet zip and warding off worms is what you call passion, then yes, I am wrong. All this **** as well of 'I will accept the charge...' is a bit like 'I will accept the new contract ...'. Arrogant. Funny how Atwood and Sons do not even mention it though no doubt they are working on Donald Wenger v the establishment type crap. ps 'he only cost a mil/and he's better than Ozil' - oh dear ..... - Post No. 103343

mbg  15:39pm 26th Jan 2017

RedShirts, spot on, that's what we need and hopefully that's what the new manager does (like any right thinking manager does) plays players in their proper position, buys players for their proper positions with the intention of playing them there (unlike TOF who if he seen a great defender would try and convert him into a midfielder or winger) and do it ad give them a chance to shine and excel, how many players could have done that for us over the last seven eight years if given the chance and allowed to if it weren't for this old past it manager and his out of date failed philosophies. wenger out. - Post No. 103344

Arseneknewbest  15:45pm 26th Jan 2017

Jjet - I'm always wary of anyone who uses the words "passion" or "passionate" when talking about anything except the old "in-out" (or in Jamee son's case ceaseless dna-delivery onto biscuits). E.g. I'm passionate about baking bread/selling double-glazing/analysing spreadsheets/watching 8 out of ten cats prefer scratching jimmy carr's nutbag etc. etc. None of it rings true. So for corporate wengo to use the "p" word underlines his phoni-ness. Next thing you know he'll be mis-using that awful word "iconic" to describe his crumbling tenure at asano. - Post No. 103345

mbg  16:20pm 26th Jan 2017

jj, of course it's only bullshyte spin mate, he was on earlier in the pre match pressers (how I hate that voice)talking shyte about being in the game for thirty five years, a manager for thirty years, seen a lot of things from the dug out blah blah (he hasn't learned much then, but no surprise there) when asked what he thinks will happen/how long he'll be banned, nothing, what arrogance. Funny how we never heard about these impassioned speeches he's supposed to be giving before he was sent off. wenger out. - Post No. 103346

Bard  16:22pm 26th Jan 2017

Some excellent posts. I feel sorry for you Simon. Your posts are bit like moving deckchairs around the Titanic, ever hopeful that the ship wont go down. Which players have really improved over the last 2 seasons. Bellerin probably Monreal possibly. That sadly is it. I could name a handful who have either atrophied or gone backwards. As most have suggested Iwobi looks a good prospect but on past evidence will be shunted here and there until he too gets mired in the mess. - Post No. 103348

gooner.ed  17:42pm 26th Jan 2017

Ok, so gooner.ed aka website editor here. So to post in the comments going forward you will have to be registered on the gooner forum. Some of the regulars may already well be. Sadly, we've had to go down this road because there aren't enough hours in the day to delete the posts of our favorite troll Jamerson and the large number of other aliases he uses - including imitating myself and posting as 'website editor' more than I do. So sure, there won't be so many comments, but there will also be less trolling. Jamerson - There are plenty of other websites on which you can do your trolling. See you in church... - Post No. 103349

Gaz  10:08am 27th Jan 2017

Anything that stops that complete and utter weirdo posting is fine by me. - Post No. 103350

TonyEvans  10:39am 27th Jan 2017

Ditto what Gaz says. Shame it has become necessary but there are always idiots out there that spoil things for others and it will great to be rid of the prat. - Post No. 103352

Alsace  15:33pm 27th Jan 2017

I don't think that I would compare Iwobi to Carzorla. Firstly he has more physical presence than the wee man. Secondly his default position is to drive the attack from box to box. When Iwobi plays, we look like a different team. He always makes himself available for a pass and has the confidence to go through players. That quality is non existent in Ramsey or Walcott, who simply lack the confidence to win a 50 / 50 challenge. The normal response of our team as a whole is to go round the defence in a pattacake way. Some move round it swiftly and effectively, eg Bellerin and Sanchez, and some more round it slowly unil the lose the ball, eg Ramsey and Walcott and some simply make no progress at all. Iwobi says, " get out of my way" like P Vieira or E Petit and beats players. He also knows when to pass the ball. He reminds me in a way of David Rocastle, and you can't really praise more highly than that. Even the manager can see that he's worth his place in the team, and long may it continue. - Post No. 103358

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

16th February 2018

Frozen North Provides Relief For Arsenal

Rare comfortable away win for Gunners v Ostersunds