By Izuchukwu Okosi
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has called on Super Eagles winger Alex Iwobi to improve on his game as the Gunners edged a resilient CSKA Moscow side on aggregate in the return leg of their Europa League quarterfinals clash in Moscow Thursday night.
Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan was ruled out for Arsenal’s next three matches after sustaining a knee medial ligament injury in the first leg at the Emirates last week.
Keown considers Iwobi as the most capable of the Arsenal stars to step ‘into the boots’ of the former Borrusia Dortmund and Manchester United creative midfielder.
“If anything, this week should focus Arsenal,’ the former Gunner told the Daily Mail.
“They cannot afford to take liberties in this match. CSKA Moscow will take a leaf out of Roma’s book and try to recreate an intimidating atmosphere, but they showed in the first leg they’re at their best when they’re flying forward.
“That will leave space for Arsenal to exploit and I fancy them to score goals, even with Henrikh Mkhitaryan out. His season-ending knee injury is such a disappointment.
”He’s already made himself indispensable. He’s so nimble and creative, and his absence leaves a void.
“Without him, it’s time for Alex Iwobi to deliver. He has been in the first team for three seasons now but has not really trained on.”
The former England youth international scored the decisive goal that earned Nigeria a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and Keown suggested Iwobi has been a better player for Nigeria than his club.
“He’s neat and tidy but is not decisive enough. He’s scored more goals for Nigeria than Arsenal this season – two goals in 32 games is not good enough for an attacking player, even if a lot of those are from the bench,” Keown noted.
The CSKA Moscow versus Arsenal game ended 2-2 with the Gunners qualifying for the semifinals 6-2 on aggregate after the 4-1 win last week in the first leg.
Iwobi came off the bench in place of Alexandre Lacazette just after Danny Welbeck’s goal.