Arsene Wenger sees the emergence of Alex Iwobi as further vindication of Arsenal’s approach in educating and giving chances to young players.
Iwobi scored one and made another in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Watford at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, with the other goals coming from Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott to help keep the Gunners’ faint title hopes alive.
The 19-year-old, who came through the club’s academy, has now scored two in as many games for Wenger’s side as he continues to flourish while the likes of Walcott and Joel Campbell remain on the bench.
The Nigerian-born forward played for England at junior level and it was thought he might commit to the senior side, but the possibility was ended when he played in an African Nations Cup qualifier for Nigeria against Egypt last week.
“Is he a loss for England? Yes,” Wenger said.
“We have values in our club that are maybe not rated always, but one of them is to give a chance to young people and educate them.
“Every year we bring players out and not many can say that. I’m happy Alex is one of them.
“He arrived here at the age of seven or eight. He’s completely integrated in the way we want to play football.
“He’s worked with us since the start of the season and it shows because when he came in he was used to the way we want to play.”
Iwobi’s pace and power posed a constant threat to the Watford defence and he could have scored another had the crossbar not kept out a bending effort in the second half.
While some of Arsenal’s players appear to have wilted under the pressure of the title race, Iwobi appears fearless and his confidence was clear to see against the Hornets.
“It’s one of his qualities,” Wenger said. “He’s also very mobile and is a midfielder with creativity but is also a finisher.
“The quality of his receptions is very good because he gets into good spaces.”
Arsenal’s victory closes the gap behind Leicester City to eight points with seven matches remaining.
The Gunners have work to do, but their fixtures are kind, with Manchester City and West Ham the only teams currently in the top six they still have left to play.
“We want to focus on the way we play and keep the quality very high. Then we’ll see where we are,” Wenger said. “We will fight until the end to have a chance.”