News Matches
Features & Opinions

Is Alex Iwobi's prospective Everton renewal ill-advised?

21:31 GMT 24/12/2022
Alex Iwobi Everton 2022-23
Should the Super Eagle hold off on extending his stay at Goodison Park until the season’s denouement at least?

At this point, Alex Iwobi’s Everton form cannot be considered a purple patch. Purple patches are not expected to last this long, following the midfield man’s revival since Frank Lampard took charge in late January.

The Nigeria international was away with the Super Eagles at the time at the Africa Cup of Nations, but that did not go well for the ex-Arsenal man, who received a straight red card minutes after coming on for Augustine Eguavoen’s crew.

He was a pariah at home and was not much fancied abroad, with Everton supporters making him a lightning rod for the Toffees’ underwhelming run under then-head coach Rafael Benitez. It all came to a head after a defeat at Brentford at the end of November, with the Nigerian receiving dog’s abuse from a section of the club’s online support.

Just over a year after that incident, it is almost a miracle that conversations have started over a renewal for Iwobi. He probably must have considered leaving after the 2021-22 season if he remained a bit-part player at Goodison Park, and one whom fans were not particularly fond of.

“The supporters were probably thinking, ‘We are better off getting someone who can do the job’. I was told in the past I wasn’t good enough,” Iwobi told iNews in November. “When I hear that it motivates me to try to prove my point. “At the time, it felt like everyone wanted me to go.”

Lampard’s tactical acumen still divides opinion but Iwobi’s resurgence is down to the Everton boss giving the 26-year-old midfielder the confidence to flourish again at this level and maintain such a high level.

The Englishman confirmed in October the club and player were in talks regarding a renewal and revealed an agreement was imminent at Friday’s press conference.

“Close. That's the update for you,” said Lampard before facing Wolverhampton Wanderers. “All good. We've hopefully got a situation where the players want to stay.”

Iwobi asserted his commitment to the Goodison Park club in that interview with iNews last month, but you wonder if putting pen to paper should have been delayed until the season’s conclusion.

Everton’s Premier League future is uncertain, just as it was last season before Lampard’s troops rallied in the final weeks of the campaign to secure their top flight status. The Merseyside outfit finished 2021-22 16th, only four points above 18th-placed Burnley, and are not faring any better in the ongoing campaign.

Lampard’s men are 17th in the standings, only one point ahead of newly-promoted Nottingham Forest, two ahead of second-bottom Southampton and four points ahead of cellar-dwelling Wolves, their opponents on Boxing Day.

With survival far from guaranteed, it seems ill-advised that Iwobi would commit to what is likely to be a long-term contract on higher wages giving him little leverage if the club do not stay up.

Indeed, this could go pear-shaped if the Toffees fail to beat the drop and the decision-making to extend now rather than take stock in May will be questioned if Everton end in the bottom three.

“I want to win as many things as I can with this club,” said the Nigerian in November. “That is why I came here; the club was very ambitious and it still is. I’d like to stay.”

An agreement appears close, but there has to be a rethink about this course of action. Iwobi has played top flight football throughout his professional career, and the current situation at Everton potentially jeopardises that, especially if relegation battles become the norm on Merseyside.