Thursday, September 29, 2016

Alex Iwobi wished he played for Nigeria in the 2016 Olympics

Alex Iwobi wishes Arsenal would have let him play at the Olympics with Nigeria, but realises that going to Rio may also have hampered his progress with the Gunners.

Iwobi, 20, was blocked from joining the Nigeria squad for the Rio de Janeiro Games in August as it would have ruled him out of the start of the Premier League season, a decision that Iwobi accepted.

"I would like to have played in the Olympics -- doing that would have been a big thing for me," Iwobi told the London Evening Standard. "If I had gone, I would have missed a couple of Arsenal games at least and the boss [Arsene Wenger] didn't want that. I wish I did go but at the end of the day I did what the boss wanted and I am happy to be where I am. If I had gone, I might not be where I am now."

Iwobi started Arsenal's season-opening game against Liverpool only to sustain a thigh injury that ruled him out for three weeks. But he has been an integral part of the team's success since his return to fitness, including in the 3-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

After breaking into the first team last spring, he is now a regular first-choice starter for Wenger and seems to still have plenty of room for development.

"I don't even look at how far I've come. I wouldn't say I'm in a daze right now but I'm just enjoying it as it comes and whatever happens, happens," Iwobi said.

The attacking midfielder was born in Lagos but his family moved to London when he was four years old and he joined the Arsenal academy while still in primary school. Despite playing for England's youth teams, Iwobi opted to represent Nigeria internationally after being first called up in 2015.

And his uncle, Nigeria legend Jay-Jay Okocha, still offers him advice on how to deal with his newfound success.

"When I was growing up, he helped me a lot on the pitch," Iwobi said. "He gave me game advice a lot but the older I am getting, he is helping me off the pitch more so I can be professional and focus on the football.

"He's always telling me what could happen, what you are about to face. He always says 'concentrate on the football first -- the rest is just luxury stuff that comes with it."

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