Sunday, June 26, 2022

Frank Lampard given Alex Iwobi bonus he never expected at Everton

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It’s taken them almost three years but Everton look to be finally getting the best out of Alex Iwobi, even though he’s evolved into a very different kind of player than Blues thought they were getting. From the moment he first through the Goodison Park entrance door, Iwobi suffered from who he wasn’t rather than who he was.

Many excited Evertonians went into transfer deadline day in the summer of 2019, hoping they might be able to snare Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha for a club record fee but a reported offer of £ 70million plus James McCarthy and Cenk Tosun was not enough to tempt the Eagles Arriving in his place as a late alternative – so late in fact that the player himself had to scramble off a boat in Dubai when he received the call with a deal sheet put. through to the Premier League – was Iwobi.

Born in Lagos but raised in Newham in London’s East End from the age of four, Iwobi had been with Arsenal since primary school and it took a fee of an initial £ 28million, potentially rising to £ 34million with add-ons, to prise him away from the Gunners. Often deployed as a winger but apparently preferring to operate as a’number 10′ in a central support role behind the main striker, here was a player with undoubted attacking tendencies.

Yet in both of his first two seasons on Merseyside, Iwobi finished the campaign with just a solitary Premier League goal to his name. He doubled that tally in 2021/22 thanks to a dramatic late winner at home to Newcastle United in March – coming some nine minutes into 14 minutes of allotted stoppage time after the game had been interrupted by a protester tying himself to a goalpost by his neck – but it has been in reinventing himself as a grafter that the now 26-year-old has got the Gwladys Street to take him to their hearts.

Iwobi told the club’s website: “Evertonians appreciate hard work and the physical side.. If I have that energy, hopefully it influences my teammates.

“It is important that I understand the culture of the city, the passion for football and for Everton. I love playing and like to express myself through football, so when I get the opportunity, I just try my best.

“The manager spoke to me after the Leicester home game [a 1-1 draw on 20 April] He said,’It is nice to have the energy to run and chase and get back, but maybe, sometimes, preserve it, chill out, so you’re not burned out’.

“Other than that, he says maintain the work-ethic because it really helps the crowd engage with the team. The manager knows I have the ability to press and quickly get back into shape.”

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Iwobi is now hoping that his best days with Everton still lie ahead and added: “My first couple of years here weren’t the greatest but this [the final weeks of the season] was my best period at Everton. I want to use it as a platform to kick on and make more positive memories with this club.

“I am youngish and have a lot of time ahead. I want to win something with Everton – and do my best for the club.”

So just what has changed for Iwobi in addition to his attitude? Is there tangible evidence on the pitch? An examination of his statistics for last season on Comparisonator certainly suggest a major alteration in the emphasis of his game.

When aligning Iwobi’s numbers in the 13 Premier League matches he played under Rafael Benitez with the subsequent 15 under Frank Lampard, a clear refocusing of his role emerges. Shot assists per game (from 0.82 to 1.08) is the only offensive parameter to go up under the new manager with Iwobi taking on average just a third of the number of shots previously (1.52 to 0.51), making fewer dribbles (3.28 to 2.4) and having less attacking actions overall (6.21 to 4.24).



Alex Iwobi’s offensive parameters under Rafael Benitez compared with under Frank Lampard

Rather than suggesting any kind of regression in his displays though, this demonstrates Iwobi’s work in other areas with an upturn in the majority of both his defensive and passing parameters. His ball recoveries almost doubled from 1.99 to 3.92, interceptions increased from 3.05 to 3.92 while defensive actions and successful defensive actions went up from 10.2 and 6.68 respectively to 15.05 and 9.42.



Alex Iwobi's defensive parameters under Rafael Benitez compared with under Frank Lampard
Alex Iwobi’s defensive parameters under Rafael Benitez compared with under Frank Lampard

As well as putting a shift in, Iwobi also showed himself to be more composed. Not only did his number of passes per game increase from 27.54 to 34.53 and successful passes from 22.38 to 28.08 but he also did better with key passes (0.82 to 1.08) ); long passes (0.47 to 1.52); successful long passes (0.23 to 0.76); passes to the final third (12.19 to 13.22) and successful crosses (0.35 to 0.51). Iwobi is looking a much better team player for Everton now, just not the sort that many fans were expecting.

  • Comparisonator is a football data comparison tool from 271 professional leagues around the world which compares players and clubs by utilising over 100 different parameters. Click here for more details.

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