By Yusuf Mutiu
Everton’s £35million winger Alex Iwobi acknowledges it’s right time he lived up to the hype he enjoyed coming through the Arsenal academy in London.
Alex celebrated his 24th birthday during the lockdown, and he’s determined to hit the ground running when the toffees face their Merseyside neighbour in their first match since the return of premiership football.
The Nigerian international doubled as the nephew of the legendary Jay-Jay Okocha signed for Everton from Arsenal last summer and has been a shadow of himself due to a hamstring injury. He hasn’t scored since November, and he has only provided an assist in more than fifteen games.
It is a far cry from being an Arsenal regular at 20 when Arsene Wenger predicted Iwobi would become a ‘top-class’ player. His speed and power also saw him represent England at junior level before switching international allegiance.
“I’m no longer that young prospect, that young talent,’ he says. ‘I have to show why there was so much hype about me. The only way you can do that is in games. I feel I’m at that time in my career when I need to start doing that. I need to up my stats a bit more, improve a bit more.
“That will come. I’m looking forward to restarting the season so I can prove myself.
The Blues have not beaten their rivals since 2010 and Iwobi has never been on the winning side against Liverpool in six attempts for Arsenal and Everton.
He said: “We have to accept it’s not a great record, but we are on our own turf, even without fans. We’re going from no games to a derby, everyone will put in the hard graft, that extra bit of helping a team-mate.
“We’re like one big family. You wouldn’t want a family member going into a challenge on their own or fighting a war without being there for each other. I’m sure there would have been no better feeling for Liverpool than winning the title at Goodison. They can’t but we will still treat it the same. We are ready for the war.
Iwobi till this moment gets advice from his uncle who he sees as the best African player of all time. ‘He will be a role model for life.’
“Hopefully, I can be as great as him, but it is a hard legacy to live up to,” he said.