Everton recorded their first win of the 2022/23 Premier League season against West Ham on Sunday, and Alex Iwobi was once again the midfield inspiration in Frank Lampard’s team.
The 26-year-old Nigerian has been a revelation under Lampard since being repurposed as an all-action No. 8, rather than his traditional wide position. Those qualities were firmly on display at the weekend as the Toffees eased past West Ham 1-0.
David Moyes’ side were limp and bereft of ideas — relying on individual moments of quality, rather than sustained periods of collective threat — but that was largely a symptom of Everton’s brilliance in comfortably winning the midfield battle.
The composition of Iwobi alongside Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye offered Lampard the perfect blend of qualities in the heart of his midfield: tenacity, penetration, athleticism and verticality, able to retain possession and hog the ball, but drive at West Ham’s pedestrian double-pivot when the moment took them.
The eventual goal came through Neal Maupay, but Iwobi was the catalyst, collecting the ball in the middle of the park, before spraying it wide, penetrating the half space to collect, and then teeing up his French counterpart, who duly dispatched to break the deadlock.
That pass to Maupay means Iwobi has now assisted three of Everton’s last four goals in all competitions, underlining his emergence as a real creative force for the Toffees since his transition to midfield. But, it wasn’t just the assist. Iwobi was everywhere at Goodison Park.
The former Arsenal man finished the game with the most final third entries of any Everton player (13), the most shots (two), the most touches (74), chances created (two), as well as more than double the amount of final third passes of any of his team-mates (34), most take-ons (four) and possessions won in the final third (two). It was a complete performance.
Alex Iwobi's game by numbers vs. West Ham:
34 passes in final third
13 final third entries
8x possession won
3 duels won
3 touches in opp. box
2 chances created
He's now assisted three of Everton's last four goals in all comps. ?️ pic.twitter.com/lsyCLEtCCf
— Squawka (@Squawka) September 18, 2022
Once a polarising winger who elicited more frustration than fan frenzy, Iwobi is now (arguably) the first name on the team-sheet at Goodison Park, while his name is now serenaded on the terraces, a scenario almost unimaginable before Lampard turned up.
What a redemption arc it has been for Iwobi, who has arguably been the most improved Premier League player this season.