Alex Iwobi has been challenged to “deliver” for Arsenal this season by former striker Nwankwo Kanu following the winger’s new long-term contract.
The 22-year-old penned a new deal to keep him at the Emirates Stadium until 2023 this week despite having tailed off under Arsene Wenger.
Iwobi has yet to fully realise his potential since his first-team breakthrough three years ago and as such was linked with an Arsenal exit this summer.
The Nigeria international – who has made 98 appearances, scoring nine goals – faces a fight to cement a regular starting role under new boss Unai Emery given the wealth of attacking options available to the Spaniard.
January signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is arguably Iwobi’s biggest rival for a starting spot with the Gabon front-man often utilised in the left-sided wide role that Iwobi is most at home in.
And ex-Gunners forward Kanu has laid down the gauntlet to his compatriot Iwobi to find some consistency with his performances and establish himself as a key player at Arsenal.
“In Arsenal you have big, big names. I don’t think he [Iwobi] sees himself in that way,” Kanu told the Evening Standard.
“When I talk with him I want him to feel that way. Just because you’re younger than the other players doesn’t mean you’re not a star. He’s a star in his own right.
“When he comes to Nigeria he feels the pressure: he’s Iwobi, he needs to deliver. With Arsenal he thinks ‘Ok, there’s other names here, no problem’. He needs to change that.
“For me he’s a special kid. Arsenal know the quality he has got and they know he can deliver on that eventually.
“He didn’t just become a bad player overnight. If the team isn’t doing well it affects everybody. He’s a talented player who’ll do more and do better for Arsenal.”
While Iwobi faces a fight to play week-in, week-out under Emery – Kanu believes he can force his way into the reckoning if he can take his chances to impress coming off the bench.
And the 42-year-old would know all about doing that, having made the seventh-most substitute appearances in the history of the Premier League with 118.
That’s with Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Sylvain Wiltord and Freddie Ljungberg having been among the forwards he competed with in his five years in north London.
Kanu added in his advice to Iwobi: “You have to believe in your quality first of all. You have to know your strengths and tell yourself you’re the best.
“At times I didn’t play but I was still the best – that’s how I saw it. If I get 15, 20 minutes I will do what I have to do and make an impact.
“Iwobi needs to be convinced he can be in the team and if the coach thinks otherwise he has to fight to convince him he should be.”