Six things the Ox must urgently learn from Iwobi by OJ
After Arsenal’s convincing win at Hull, and Arsenal fans all over the world happy, there is one man who must feel gutted, and that is Oxlade Chamberlain. First, this is the first time Arsenal’s attacking formation was a little more convincing, and it is the just the time the Ox was not in the mix.
There is a case to be made that Hull is not in the level of the teams we had played before them. But consider that Hull beat Leicester City (2:1), Swansea (2:0) away from home, and nearly drew at Manchester United, losing only by one goal. Even Southampton whom we struggled to beat has not mustered such result this season. The ease with which Arsenal dispatched Hull showed a lot of difference in the way Arsenal played, rather than the fact of Hull being weak. There is evidence that our team were sharper in the final third, and not losing balls or getting stuck somehow.
The second and more saddening for the Ox would be that the person who played in his stead out there on the left wing was namesake Alex Iwobi. But on that same wing where he used to be invisible or ineffective, Iwobi has won the pundits’ man of the match in the game against Hull. What is more? It is simple; since no coach changes a winning team, it means that as long as Iwobi is fit and plays this way, the Ox will not get to play.
I am not here, anyway, to condemn Chamberlain. He is a good football player, and plays according to his skill-set. He is not Iwobi, and Iwobi cannot be him. But I think at this point, it is also important to swallow some pride and learn from the younger boy. This is what I will do if I were in his shoes. I will take time and re-watch the matches and understand what Iwobi is doing better than me. Ask any great footballer, and they will tell you of what they learned from some other people, even younger players. And here are some points I want to suggest the Ox must learn from Iwobi’s play.
1. Be more in the middle: Today’s wingers are not great as out-out wingers, so better play from the middle. I am not in Arsenal dressing room. I am not privy to match instructions given by Wenger. So I can’t slay the Ox if actually he is playing to the coach’s instruction. But here is the problem the Ox has; he stays too much at the critical angle, because ordinarily a winger should stay there. But Iwobi plays the wing more from the middle, more like middle left, where he combines well with Ozil and Sanchez (a little ahead) and Cazorla and Coquelin (a little behind). That position gives you access to all the players and makes your passing easier and movement freer.
2. Don’t run square to the tight angle, if you are not a great dribbler or passer: Go diagonal instead. Iwobi does not seem to be a great dribbler. Perhaps. The Ox thinks himself that. But this is where it is a problem. Often, Chamberlain, when he gets the ball races to the left corner, hoping to cut in at the square and dribble the left back of the opposing team and burst into the 18 yard box. However, 99.5% of the time he fails to do that. Either he is dispossessed or ball is forced into the corner, the resultant kick of which is often wasted. The reason for this is simple. The angle is tight. Or tighter. When you run to the side of the field, the angle gets smaller as you move. The tighter the angle the less space there is to defend by the opponents. Depending on the speed of your movement there, you have one, two or more defenders return, and waiting. Today’s defenders are quite talented and do no longer allow wingers dribble them and pass. So, to make your work easier, like Iwobi does, when you have the ball in the middle (left) run diagonal cutting in towards the centre. From the centre, you have 360 degrees (180 degrees before the goal, and 180 behind you). As you would expect, (or as is usual with Arsenal) Monreal would have run into the empty space in the left corner you didn’t run into, and because the opponent’s wing back is supposed to mark you, he follows you, leaving Monreal unmarked. Monreal being free is added option in the attacking move, should you fail to find a player to pass to in the middle of the pack. He will be free to send the ball back to you or fling it to the middle. Meanwhile, with you having 360 degrees of space, it means you can pass to anybody free, and Iwobi often chooses to pass to the person who is running up-field, often into the 18. So his passing posses more threat. Not only that, his movement from that position always gives a problem to the opposition because he is free to move to any direction he chooses depending on the position of other players (consider where he stood to give Walcott the final pass for the second goal against Hull: that is actually right, not left). And when he passes, the more central position he stays in allows him to move further down into the 18-yard box and becoming quite easily a strike option, and even though he is a winger anyone can easily see how many shooting he does per match and how many of them result in goals, either he scores himself or someone scores out of rebound from his effort.
3. Do not overrun yourself or the ball: Whatever you do as a footballer, what matter most is what you do with the ball not what you do with your legs. I don’t know how to explain this better. But the Ox thinks more about himself, speed, and the opposing defender than what he will do with the ball he receives. When you make decision on what to do with the ball secondary, it happens that before you do, you are dispossessed. And this is actually what happens most of the time. In Arsenal’s passing game, the easiest first thought is to pass. To someone who is running, free or unmarked. You may not actually need to run, or dribble. Yes, what you may need is just to pass the ball, on time, and move. With this, attacking moves will not be snuffed from you or allow opposing players to regain their shape before you do it. Iwobi keeps the ball, and passes it intelligently. Two things the Ox does not do well.
4. Know that the ball you lose to the opponents puts pressure to your team: When Iwobi plays, we did not have to more defending than is usual from his side of the pitch, because more often he is not dispossessed and passes the ball well. This is critical; but the truth is that when a team focuses more on defending, it has less time to attack. Any ball possession you surrender to the opponent puts your entire team under pressure to defend and sometimes can even result to you conceding a goal, because a good team cannot surrender the possession back to you until it gets your half, make attempt at your goal. It means when Arsenal play with the Ox, we have to defend more than necessary, because of too many arbitrary loss of possession to the opponent. This does not help the team to score goals.
5. When you play, be conscious of the team’s formation, and your role in it: This is important to have a balance. You must keep your position, and help maintain the teams shape. But also keep in mind where your mates must be. If you are not sure, you must have your face up. When you are conscious of formation you easily know where to send your pass, when you look at your mates you know whom to pass the ball to. The Ox has this problem of looking at the ball than at his mates in the field of play. The result is that when he could easily have given a pass, even sometimes a killer pass, he plays something else that is horrible. When camera zooms close, you understand he didn’t actually see the player he is supposed to pass to. Iwobi keeps his face up most of the time. And this is evident in the manner and the quality of his passes in the final third.
6. Shoot, always try to shoot: This one goes to all Arsenal players. Two times in last two games Sanchex scored goals all Arsenal fans wished go to Iwobi. Sanchez was there to benefit from Iwobi’s characteristics of shooting when he sees space. Most Arsenal players are won’t to pass and dance in front of the 18 yard box. But actually the man who shoots at the goal is the better player. As Iwobi seems. Now, the thing is simple. When you shoot, you force the goalkeeper to react, and the defence to be panic and lose their organization. At that point if a ball goes lose, it is 50/50 for each team. Against PSG and Hull, such has resulted in goals for Arsenal. So, the Ox must learn as a winger to shoot when he has sight at goal. His responsibility in an Arsenal set up that has Ozil and Cazorla is not to pass the ball. It is to corner the ball in and shoot when necessary.
I think this is all I have. Other Arsenal fans who read this can advise the Ox as well, hoping he reads. I am convinced about his talent and athleticism; but if these don’t yield the end result in the field of play, the Ox will never be an Arsenal great. And one does not know how long Arsene’s patience may tarry on him.
Finally, football is team game. One problem player is a big problem to any fluid passing team, while a proper formation and fluid passing machine is a great team—see what Guardiola has made them at Man City. All Arsenal fans want our team to come back to that (because we used to be that), since we have a great team now. And if that has to be the case, whether Iwobi plays or the Ox, we wish to see Arsenal that are mobile and threatening like yesterday at Hull.
Okeke Izuchukwu Job
Pukyong National University,
Busan, South Korea