In Focus: Iwobi can be one of Lamps' leading lights after Goodison revival
Alex Iwobi is hitting new heights in an Everton shirt — and his superb showings could lift the Toffees out of their sticky situation.
One of countless expensive arrivals at Goodison Park in recent years, the 25-year-old had become something of a peripheral figure on Merseyside.
But as Frank Lampard’s outfit prepare to continue their battle against the drop against Leicester, Iwobi now stands out as one of their key men.
Ahead of that game, we take a look at how he has turned his stagnating Everton career around.
Price tag pressure
Signing from Arsenal for £28million in August 2019 — potentially rising to £34m — there was pressure on Iwobi to deliver.
But you will be hard pushed to find any Everton fan who believes the Nigeria international has even come close to justifying his price tag.
Iwobi did not set his extortionate value but he was an exciting prospect when he joined the Toffees at the age of 23 and has not delivered on that promise.
Rise and fall
Iwobi scored 11 times and provided 19 assists in 100 Premier League appearances for Arsenal, averaging 0.3 contributions per match. Everton will have expected that they were getting a solidly productive player.
He created an average of 1.74 chances per 90 minutes during his four seasons with the Gunners — more than Riyad Mahrez (1.71 per 90) over the same period and fractionally less than Paul Pogba (1.75 per 90).
And after scoring in each of his first two starts for Everton and setting up a goal in his fourth, the Lagos native looked to be picking up where he left off.
But his instant impact did not continue and he has only managed seven strikes and six assists in 89 appearances in all competitions for his current employers.
Back to his best?
The latest of Iwobi’s Everton strikes could hardly have been much bigger as he notched a 99th-minute winner against Newcastle last month to secure three vital points in the Toffees' fight for survival.
That potentially season-defining moment seems to have sparked something within the 55-cap winger and he has become indispensable to Lampard with his recent displays.
Operating in a more central role since the ex-Chelsea boss switched to a 4-3-3 formation, Iwobi appears to be playing with new-found freedom — to the benefit of himself and his team alike.
The playmaker has suggested that Lampard is helping him to really enjoy his football.
Speaking in February, he said: "The manager has given everyone the confidence that we are a really good team, can be very good on the ball.
"He just wants us to trust our ability. It’s not just me — we are all thriving off him and enjoying it.
"Personally, the manager’s support gives me the belief that I can go out and express myself and enjoy the games.
"It really helps me to show what I’ve got. It works for me and it works for the team. Long may that continue."
It certainly has continued, with Iwobi’s improved performances appearing to demonstrate that a happy footballer is a productive footballer.
Though not fully out of the woods in terms of avoiding relegation, Everton’s home form and the shortcomings of the sides below them should be enough to see them over the line.
And while there will need to be significant changes at Goodison Park this summer to avoid a repeat of this season, Iwobi may have salvaged his place in the squad with his recent form.
Doubts will linger over whether Lampard is the right man to lead the Toffees’ recovery but even if he departs, revitalising Everton’s No17 could be one of his most important acts on Merseyside.