Alex Iwobi has lifted the lid on just how close he was to being released by Arsenal as a teenager, revealing he was “almost” let go at 14.
Iwobi joined Arsenal’s youth ranks in 2004, spending nine years in the set-up before appearing on the first-team’s bench in 2013. However it wasn’t until last season that the 20-year-old made his breakthrough under Arsene Wenger, featuring in eight of their last nine Premier League games, making 13 appearances in total.
Such was his impact, Iwobi has now established himself in the Gunners’ squad, looking to continue his development at the club for the long-term. His journey to the first-team was a perilous one though, as the Nigerian international admitted he could’ve been released on a couple of occasions in the past.
“I was almost released at 14, again at 16 and just about got a professional contract after that,” Iwobi told the London Evening Standard. “Especially at 14, I thought I was very close to not making it. It was stressful as I was going through school, trying to balance that and make sure I was still signed for Arsenal.
“It was really difficult for me. We usually found out in December who might be kept on but I kept on getting the question ‘is he good enough?’ So they extended it to see if I could do something and it went to March and then April. Luckily I did enough.
“At 16 I got the option to leave but I always felt at home at Arsenal and that was where I wanted to be. At 16, there were a lot of good players, a few internationals in the team at a young age so it was difficult for me to stand out in the games. They always want the best and I wasn’t really up there at that age.
“The fact that I kept getting chances makes me feel lucky,” he disclosed to Papilonews.com yesterday.
Iwobi has created six chances and won 58% of his average duels in four Premier League appearances this season, with a shot accuracy of 100%, as Arsenal sit third on 13 points from their opening six fixtures, one behind Tottenham Hotspur in second and five adrift of leaders Manchester City.
Next up for them is an away clash at Burnley this weekend, before taking on Swansea City following the international break.