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Alex Iwobi Arsenal Unai Emery Tactical Analysis

How Alex Iwobi has starred under Unai Emery for Arsenal this season

This tactical analysis on Alex Iwobi originally featured on one of our network analysis sites, wearethearsenal.uk

As we move into October, everything seems to be well at Arsenal. Seven straight wins, Alexandre Lacazette & Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are on song and much more. One of the major highlights to Arsenal’s season, however, has been the performances of Alex Iwobi.

Like many Arsenal players, Iwobi divides opinion, but this season he’s undoubtedly been one of Arsenal’s better players. But how has his game improved of late? Find out in this tactical analysis of his start to the season.

Last Season

Last season was very turbulent for Iwobi. His performances weren’t consistent and although he wasn’t poor he wasn’t a standout player either. One reason for this was the way he chose to attack teams.

Even though he plays out wide, for many Arsenal fans who’ve watched Iwobi come through the ranks, it’s clear he’s a player who would probably do better centrally. This can be seen in his heat map from last season as he tended to drift inside when on the ball:

Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis

Although it could be seen as a good thing as he’s getting himself involved with play, ultimately it held Arsenal back an awful lot. This was seen against Manchester United last season.

Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis
Nacho Monreal spreads the ball to Iwobi who has a lot of space to attack out wide. There are also five Arsenal players in the box to aim for.
Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis
Instead, Iwobi, as he did very often, cut inside. This rendered the players in the box irrelevant and the chance was eventually squandered.

With his starting position almost always out wide, Iwobi became quite predictable last season. Defenders were able to force him inside into traffic where his options would be exhausted. However, this season, he’s made a slight change in his attacking approach.

Subtly More Direct

Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis

As you can see from the heat map above, Iwobi has spent a lot more time out wide this season. However, the most important thing here is that he’s getting into the final third more often.

With this, Iwobi has been able to have a bigger impact on games and contribute to Arsenal attacks in a much better way. He showed this against Chelsea in August.

Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis
Rather than starting out wide, Iwobi’s starting position is more central. This allows Monreal to get further forward and fix the opposition full back.
Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis
As The opposition full back closes the ball down, he leaves a massive space in behind for Iwobi to run into.
Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis
This sees Iwobi get onto the ball in a very dangerous position to cut the ball across the box. He’s unlucky not to get an assist as Aubameyang shoots wide.

When looking at Iwobi’s game, this is a development that can help him and Arsenal massively going forward. However, before we get to why its also important to mention how this has directly improved Iwobi’s game.

End Product

One of the biggest criticisms of Iwobi over the last couple of seasons has been his end product. Before this season he had ten goals and ten assists since his Arsenal debut in 2016.

However, this season getting into those more dangerous positions more often, he has been amongst the goals at a better rate. So far this season he’s scored once, assisted two and has been key to Arsenal scoring five other goals.

We saw how effective his in-to-out runs can be when he came on and changed the game against Watford on Saturday:

Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis
Like the Chelsea scenario, our full back (Bellerin) is high up the pitch hugging the touchline. This draws out Watford’s full back and creates the space for Iwobi in the highlighted space.
Alex Iwobi Unai Emery Arsenal Tactical Analysis
With the Watford defence lagging, Iwobi gets a good ball into the danger zone and gets what his efforts deserved as Craig Cathcart put the ball past Ben Foster in goal.


At the moment, Iwobi’s form should be hard for anyone to ignore, including Unai Emery. Making such an impact off the bench as almost a silent assassin the way he finds those spaces he could return to the starting Premier League team soon.

Offering such if Arsenal wish to attack that way, it’ll be interesting to see Emery’s selections over the coming weeks. Either way, whether its off the bench, Iwobi just needs to keep it up. The positions he’s getting himself into will help him improve that end product even more and should help Arsenal score even more goals this season.