Iwobi delivered a mature performance through the middle against Southampton, proving to Gernot Rohr he is capable of filling Mikel’s boots when the realization hit, ahead of Nigeria’s two friendlies against Poland and Serbia last month, that leader, playmaker and talisman John Obi Mikel would be absent, a challenge immediately presented itself to Gernot Rohr.
It is no coincidence that, since the German took over the reins of the national team, he has recorded a win in only one of the four games for which his captain has been absent. The pattern of all four games is easily recognizable: disjointed attacking play; a lack of tempo, rhythm or indeed, direction.
The remit, then, was clear enough: Rohr’s biggest challenge, heading into the World Cup, was to divine a way to play without Mikel. However, if what was presented in Wroclaw and Barnet was an indication of the breadth of his aptitude, then there is much to worry about in the summer.
It was not so much the predictable dysfunction, but that, right in his selection, there were present the very tools to solve the problem definitively. It brought to the fore a profound paradox, one which centres on Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi.
That paradox is this: for a player whose national team displays seem to dwarf his club performances, the 21-year-old appears to have more trust from Arsene Wenger than he does from Rohr.
Can he fill Mikel Obi’s boots for the World cup in Russia?