Arsenal’s young, versatile forward Alex Iwobi may have had some hopes dashed this summer when he was left off the Olympics squad for his national team, Nigeria. But he’s still following their roster, with whom he’s made six appearances, closely – as well as one of his national teammates playing in the US, the Portland Timbers’ Fanendo Adi.
“We’ve only been on one trip together, but from that experience we got close and started talking a bit,” said Iwobi on Wednesday afternoon at MLS’ All-Star digital headquarters this week in San Jose, California. He’s been keeping track, he says, by occasionally catching Timbers games live as they’re broadcast in the wee hours on Sky Sport in the UK.
“The last game I was watching, he was doing really well,” Iwobi said. “He impressed me.”
Meanwhile, the Olympics omission worked out for the best, Iwobi said. It meant an invitation from Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger to join the team’s US tour, which meant Iwobi’s first visit to this country, and an opportunity to keep working on his pre-season return to form.
“My goal was just to try to get as many balls and assists as I can, so I’ve just been working on that at training, as well as trying to get fit for the season,” he said. “My decision-making has been improving a bit, my decision-making on the ball.”
The first task, then, is to demonstrate that tonight when Iwobi and the rest of Arsenal take on the MLS All-Stars (7:30 pm ET, ESPN, UniMás in US, TSN in Canada). There might be a bit of added incentive to perform, he said, since MLS managed to beat Arsenal’s archrivals, Tottenham Hotspur, at last year’s All-Star Game.
“We believe we can perform better than Tottenham,” he said. “We just need to show it to you guys.”