Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Rising star Iwobi

Published:Friday | April 8, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Arsenal's Alex Iwobi celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game, during the English Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal, at Goodison Park, in Liverpool, England, on March 19.

MANCHESTER, England (AP):

There's growing competition for discovery of the season in the English Premier League.

Leading the way are N'Golo Kante, the box-to-box French midfielder propelling Leicester to an unlikely title triumph; Dele Alli, the Tottenham playmaker plucked from England's third tier; and Marcus Rashford, Manchester United's 18-year-old striker who seems born for the big time.

Time to add Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi to the list.

Iwobi, like Rashford, is a shy yet fearless teenager who has burst onto centre stage in the world's most popular league in recent weeks. Arsenal's all-star midfield is a tough department to break into, yet Iwobi has achieved it seemingly out of nowhere.

He has started four of Arsenal's last five matches, including a Champions League game away to the mighty Barcelona. He has scored and been named man of the match in the last two appearances, against Everton and Watford in the Premier League.

Theo Walcott is in desperate need of game time to retain his place in England's squad for the European Championship, but is currently playing second fiddle to Iwobi on the right wing.

He may have to get used to it.

Iwobi, 19, is the nephew of Nigeria great Jay-Jay Okocha and has been at Arsenal since the age of eight, having grown up in London. He is a powerful, hard-working, technically gifted attacker with an eye for goal just as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger likes it.

BIG HIT

Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez as the three floating forwards behind the main striker? It's some prospect and already proving a big hit.

"He is an intelligent boy who loves football, very passionate about the game, keen to learn, very humble as well," Wenger has said of Iwobi.

"It's surprising how quickly he's integrated into our game."

Iwobi's accomplished display at the Camp Nou really made people sit up and take note of a player who didn't start a game in the first half of the season. During the recent international break, Iwobi made his debut for Nigeria in a loss to Egypt - stamping his allegiance to the African country having played for England's youth teams up to under-18 level.

A call-up to Nigeria's squad for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August is in the offing - but first he might just be Arsenal's secret weapon as the team looks to secure a 19th straight season of Champions League football.

Impressive wins over Everton and Watford have consolidated third place with seven games left, and even kept Arsenal with an outside shot at the title. That, however, would require an implosion by surprise leaders Leicester, who are seven clear of second-place Tottenham and 11 ahead of Arsenal, who have a game in hand.

Arsenal visit West Ham tomorrow while Leicester travel to relegation-threatened Sunderland and Tottenham host Manchester United.

TITLE IN SIGHT

Leicester are grinding out the wins as they close in on arguably the most stunning title success in English football history, having picked up four straight 1-0 victories ahead of the trip to Sunderland.

Sunderland are proving tough to beat of late, drawing their last four games, but have slipped four points from safety. Sunderland might be in more desperate need of the points at the Stadium of Light.