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Will Alex Iwobi shine under Rafa Benitez?

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Everton’s Nigerian midfielder Alex Iwobi runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Everton at Craven Cottage in London on November 22, 2020. – Everton won the match 3-2. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / POOL / AFP)

Alex Iwobi had a great start to last season under Carlo Ancelotti, but from February found himself in and out of the starting line-up. His form had dipped towards the end of the season and many fans were wondering if they were ever going to see him reach his full potential.

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But now he has a chance to impress a new manager – Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard recently took over from Ancelotti in the Everton hot seat, but how does the Nigerian winger fit into his plans?

The Toffees are currently 4/1 with some of the best betting sites such as bet365 and 888sport to finish in the top six. The leading sportsbooks often have the most competitive odds on the market, and it’s always worth comparing prices to ensure you get the best possible for your bet.

A top four place is always a possibility if a team starts well, and with Everton priced at around 12/1, it could tempt some. However, the top six price is the safer bet, but it will all depend if Rafa can hit the ground running with his new side. An important part of that side could well be Alex Iwobi.

The Nigerian’s desire since he made the move to Goodison Park in 2019 has been to win trophies with the club. That remains his goal and he believes those aims can be achieved.

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Speaking in a recent interview with GAFFER Magazine, Iwobi said “It’s crazy when everyone tells me all these stats like the appearances and caps I’ve got. I’ve had a decent career so far considering my age.” But he stressed that his achievements up to now have only left him determined “to achieve more in the game, to win more trophies and play more for Nigeria.”

He learnt a lot from his time with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, and he’s sure there are many more good times ahead in his career.

Iwobi said: “He [Wenger] always told me to get the basics right and do them well, and then my natural ability will shine through. As long as I’m doing that and following that advice, I feel like I always play well.”

The winger didn’t impress in a recent 1-0 friendly win against Blackburn after playing 45 minutes, but it’s all about getting minutes under your belt at this time of year. Rafa Benitez will officially take charge of his first game in the Florida Cup against Colombian side Millonarios, but it remains to be seen if Iwobi be given his chance to make a statement immediately.

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Benitez wants to see everyone, so there’s no doubt Iwobi will get minutes before the start of the season. He’s still arguably got a decade left in the game, and at just 25 years old, his best years are ahead of him. But what he needs to add to his game is goals. We’ll see if a new manager can bring that side of his game out.

Nigerian teammates Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho will be playing Europa League football on top of the demanding Premier League schedule with Leicester City, so it’s a chance for Iwobi to work hard on his game, secure a regular place in the side, and press on to become a force in England and a player everyone praises in Nigeria. There’s a reason Everton paid so much money for him. The potential is there, he just has to realise it.

Everton have a favourable start to the new Premier League season, with Southampton, Leeds, Brighton, and Burnley all coming up in the first few games. Will this season be one Alex Iwobi shines for club and country? Rafael Benitez may hold the answer to that.

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