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Just How Good Has Alex Iwobi Been For Everton This Season?

Iwobi’s redemption arc has been the subject of many headlines, but do the numbers support the plaudits he has received?

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League - Goodison Park Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

In my eyes, and certainly those of many other Evertonians, Alexander Chuka Iwobi has been Everton’s standout performer through the first seven Premier League games of the 2022/23 season and possibly 2022 as a whole too. Once thought of as a glaring example of Everton’s misguided spending during the Farhad Moshiri era, the Nigerian has now become an undroppable member of Frank Lampard’s side whose name is being sung around the Goodison Park terraces on a weekly basis.

With a Premier League Player of the Month nomination, multiple Player of the Match awards, and talks of a new contract providing evidence to back his performances, let’s take a look at what the numbers say about Iwobi’s stellar start to the campaign.

Firstly, I wrote an article back in April entitled, Alex Iwobi in 2022: Redemption or Regression? and the subtitle read, “The Everton winger has had his fair share of ups and downs, but how does his season stack up statistically?” Well, Iwobi is no longer a winger, as he’s started all seven games as a center midfielder, so that context is important to keep in mind. With that said, let’s dive yet again into his stats.

We can start with a quick look at his FBRef scouting report.

We should note that these numbers all come from Premier League matches in the last 365 days, meaning some of Iwobi’s performances and numbers under Rafa Benitez are incorporated. As we know, the Nigerian’s resurgence did not begin until the appointment of Lampard, so, take this chart with a grain of salt.

Iwobi has not scored a goal this season but has registered two assists from an xG of 0.2 and an xA of 0.9. He has been averaging 0.03 xG and 0.13 xA per 90 minutes. In the past, Iwobi has been heavily criticized for his lack of end product, but that is much less of an issue or worry now that he’s been moved back into the center of the park. So let’s move on to some more relevant numbers, why don’t we?

He has been averaging an impressive 4.86 progressive passes per 90 minutes, a career-high 1.86 key passes per 90, a career-high 5.29 completed passes into the final third per 90, and a career-high 248.4 yards of progressive passing distance per 90. Despite his passing being so much more positive and progressive than in years past, his pass completion of 83.7% is the best he’s managed since 2017/18. Although his shot-creating actions per 90 minutes (SCA/90) figure of 2.86 is predictably lower than his days as a winger at Arsenal, it is the highest he’s registered since his move to Everton.

Despite being moved backwards to center-mid, he is registering a career-high 0.29 SCA/90 from successful dribbles, meaning his ability to beat a man and create chances has actually improved since his position change. His dribbling success rate of 71.4% is yet another career-high, and he has been dispossessed a career-low 1.29 times per 90.

Everton FC v Nottingham Forest - Premier League Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

It’s very clear he’s been good with the ball, but what about without it? Well, Iwobi has been averaging career-highs in both loose-ball recoveries per 90 with 10.9 and successful tackles per 90 with 2.14 and has maintained a solid amount of pressures and interceptions per 90 with 14.3 and 1.43 respectively. For an Everton midfield that has chosen to sit back and absorb pressures at times, Iwobi’s workrate and indefatigable running sometimes doesn’t show up on the stats sheet but is certainly visible to even the casual watcher.

So now that I’ve thrown all these numbers at you, what can we take from them? Firstly, we can discern that Alex Iwobi has deserved all the praise he’s received over the past few weeks. Both the “eye test” and the numbers show that he’s been a revelation so far this season, and I fully believe we have not even seen the best of him yet. Despite being Everton’s team leader in assists, progressive passes, passes into the final third, live-ball shot-creating actions, match-rating, and many other categories, he has performed this well while only playing a single game with what most would consider to be Everton’s best midfield combination.

The recent 1-0 victory over West Ham was the first time we have seen Idrissa Gueye, Amadou Onana, and Iwobi start together as a midfield three, and Iwobi was utterly magnificent as a result, no mean feat when considering he was going up against one of the best midfielders in the English game in Declan Rice. He completed 11 progressive passes, 11 progressive carries, 3 successful dribbles, and 3 shot-creating actions, winning Player of the Match as a result with an 8.2 match rating (according to FotMob) thanks to his assist on Neal Maupay’s winning goal. I fully believe that this new midfield three will help Iwobi to thrive even more, and unlocking the best of him has truly been one of Lampard’s crowning achievements during his short time in charge of Everton Football Club.

Despite playing in two different systems with various midfield colleagues thus far this season, Iwobi has excelled in every game he’s played in, and with the added security of recovery-machine Gueye and the tackling ability of the spider-legged Onana, Iwobi will have more support and more freedom than ever. He’s clearly full of confidence, as shown by the first-time screamer he scored from long range for Nigeria the other night, and so I expect the rise of “Iwobinho” to last.

Brentford FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

To answer the question posed by this article’s headline, Alex Iwobi has been sensational, but the best part about it is that the best is yet to come. Everton’s clear need for a midfield renovation in the summer has now been fulfilled, and although the new signings have certainly contributed to that, no one has changed the complexion of this season’s Everton side more than Iwobi himself. Long may it continue.