Everton were one of the standout teams in the opening weekend of the 2020/2021 Premier League season with their controlled 1-0 win away at Tottenham.
Even more impressive were the performances of their new stars. James Rodriguez played with class, Allan snagged admiration with the assiduity with which he chased after everything in midfield, while Abdoulaye Doucouré was industrious.
Along with Andre Gomes’ fine all-round performance, it was perfectly understood why Alex Iwobi was not called up to be part of Everton’s 4-3-3 formation.
Not being in the squad at all raised questions but the situation looks even direr for Iwobi after he was left out once more from Everton’s League Cup 3-0 home win over Salford City on Wednesday, September 16 despite 10 changes to the squad from the one that won away at Tottenham.
Also even more worrying is the continued silence of Carlo Ancelotti and Everton over Iwobi’s absence in their last two games. The Nigerian was not mentioned when Ancelotti gave an injury update on his squad and also didn’t speak of his absence.
This has been followed by reports that the 24-year-old is among players the club plans to offload this transfer window.
But how did Iwobi get here?
When Everton splashed almost £40m on the Nigerian in the summer of 2019, it was expected of the Arsenal Academy graduate to develop his game and deliver for the Toffees away from the tensed Emirates atmosphere.
He had a bright start with two goals in his first three games for Everton but that was all he could deliver in his debut season at Goodison Park. But it wasn’t entirely his fault. Marco Silva’s disjointed team went through a miserable run which cost the former coach his job and a hamstring injury kept him out of the side in Ancelotti's early days at the club.
He did get some game time later under the Italian manager, but Iwobi never looked the real deal for Everton at that point. Now with the investment Everton have made in midfield, it seems he will be one of the players that the club is looking to move on.
On a personal level, Iwobi does have to take accountability for where he is at right now in his career. There has never been any doubt about his talent and abilities but after his breakthrough at Arsenal that came by the sweat of his brow, the Nigerian has been unable to raise his game.
He divided opinion at Arsenal, thrilling and tying knots around opposition defences in one game and completely frustrating with his indecisiveness and poor decision making in the next. That was why Arsenal had no reservations about offloading him and why Everton looks on the verge of doing the same.
On his day, Iwobi has the dynamism to drive his team forward. But asides from being highly inconsistent, it has become difficult in recent times to deduce what he really brings to his side. Despite some fine performances, his low goal and assist returns have not done his reputation any good.
The signs show that it will be an uphill task for Iwobi to turn his Everton career around, but whether he stays or remains at the club, the task rests solely on his shoulders to fight his way back. Iwobi is missing and only he, not his manager, not the club, can find himself.