It’s safe to say that Alex Iwobi has not lived up to his £28 million price tag since joining Everton at the beginning of the 2019/20 season, but should Everton push on and secure their Premier League safety in the upcoming weeks, there’s no doubt that the Nigerian international has played a crucial part in the Toffees’ great escape. However, do the stats back up the claim that this season has been his best in a royal blue jersey? Let’s find out.
Please note that all stats referenced are from Premier League matches only. These stats were received from FBRef and Understat.
Before we compare Iwobi’s contributions this season to those from his first two seasons on Merseyside, let’s first look at how the Arsenal academy graduate performed during his time in North London.
Statistically, the best season of Iwobi’s career thus far was certainly 2018/19, as he scored 3 and assisted 6 in just under 2,000 minutes for his boyhood club. He posted career highs in xA/90 (0.35), xG + xA/90 (0.52), and xGChain/90 (0.83). To put those numbers in perspective, Richarlison’s career highs in those stats are 0.19, 0.48, and 0.50 respectively. Although the Brazilian’s G/90 and xG/90 stats have been consistently beyond those of the Nigerian, Iwobi was undeniably influential in Arsenal’s build-up during the 2018/19 season in which the Gunners finished 5th, just one point adrift of Champions League qualification.
Overall, Iwobi finished his Arsenal career averaging 0.17 G/90, 0.26 A/90, and therefore 0.43 G+A/90.
Deterioration at Everton
After his Deadline Day move to Everton, then managed by Marco Silva, Alex Iwobi’s decline was immediate and steep. Despite scoring in both of his first two starts for the club, Iwobi ended the season with staggeringly low production; just one goal and zero assists from over 1600 Premier League minutes played. His xA/90 plummeted 65% from 0.35 to 0.12, and he posted career lows in both xGChain/90 (0.39) and xGBuildup/90 (.18). Before that season, he had never recorded less than 0.25 A/90, meaning he assisted a goal at least every 4 matches, but he failed to record a single assist in 2018/19 despite making 25 Premier League appearances. Truly dreadful.
Although his xGChain/90 and xGBuildup/90 both increased the following year during Carlo Ancelotti’s only full season in charge, Iwobi’s xG+xA/90 would fall even lower to just 0.18. For context, former Everton player Kieran Dowell has averaged over twice that figure for bottom-dwellers Norwich City this season (according to FBRef). Iwobi yet again failed to score more than one league goal, this time from 30 Premier League appearances, meaning his G/90 fell to 0.05, nearly three times lower than any other season in his career.
Improvement in 2021/22
Despite Everton having one of their worst seasons in decades, Alex Iwobi has been one of the few players who has improved from last season to this. His xG/90, xA/90, and xGChain/90 are all the highest they’ve been during his time at Everton thus far, and his work rate has been nothing short of excellent. As shown by the image below, his defensive work for a winger has been very good in the last 365 days, and his engine was on full display when he ran further and made more sprints than any other player on the pitch in the Toffees’ recent victory over Manchester United, setting Everton career-highs in both categories.
Despite the fact that Iwobi has only registered two goals and a single assist so far this season, his stoppage-time winner against Newcastle will likely go down as one of the most important goals in Everton’s recent history should the Toffees avoid the drop come May. Although his miscontrol which led to Jarrod Bowen’s winner at the London Stadium cost Everton a point, I personally think Michael Keane was more at fault for that passage of play after picking completely the wrong pass and putting Iwobi in a spot of bother in the first place. His performances as of late have certainly been encouraging, and hopefully, his improvement will continue.
So, what should we make of all of these numbers? I have a few key takeaways. Feel free to give me yours in the comments below.
- Iwobi is in fact having his best season yet in an Everton shirt despite the calamity around him.
- The player is still yet to live up to anything near his £28 million fee and has not been nearly as effective or productive since leaving Arsenal.
- Although Moshiri signing players against the wishes of the Director of Football is never a good thing, then 22-year-old Iwobi was a decent prospect at the time of purchase, but his Everton career thus far has not panned out the way it could have.