Arsenal starlet Alex Iwobi has said he fulfilled "a young man's dream" after Arsene Wenger handed him a surprise starting role in the Champions League last-16 second-leg 3-1 defeat at Barcelona. The 19-year-old winger admitted he had been after a loan move in the summer to secure playing time elsewhere, but instead found himself in the Gunners' first team up against the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Iwobi impressed for the North London outfit in pre-season, scoring against Lyon in the Emirates cup. Wenger has since given him 13 appearances in the first team, including four starts in the FA Cup and one in a Capital One Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
However, despite the group stage cameo against Bayern Munich, his start against Barcelona was his first major appearance in the Champions League – and a very surprising one for the player.
"It's crazy, playing against the best players in the world," Iwobi said to Arsenal Player. "It's a young man's dream. Especially at the age of 19, I never thought I would be here playing against the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. I'm just happy to be here.
"I didn't know how to feel, I was buzzing, I just wanted to go and prove to the world what I would do. I wanted to see if I could match up to the best in the world. I was buzzing when I saw the starting line-up, I couldn't wait to touch the pitch."
The Arsenal starlet admitted he never thought he'd progress so quickly, and last summer even was after a loan move to secure regular game time elsewhere. Yet he was selected ahead of the likes of Theo Walcott or Joel Campbell in the Wenger's starting line-up for the trip to the Nou Camp.
"I never thought I would get this far. Honestly I thought I was going to go on loan at the start of the season, but the manager has shown faith in me and I'm trying to repay that faith and prove him right every time I play," Iwobi added.
The midfielder was unable to stop his side's elimination on aggregate, an uphill task after losing 2-0 at home. However, despite the obvious disappointment, he was happy with his contribution.
"I am pleased with how I did, but it's a team game. I just wish that the team won the game and got through. Nonetheless, I am happy with my performance. In the dressing room we were a bit disappointed but not too down because we thought we did very well, we were just unlucky at the end," he said.
"If we took our chances you'd probably say we could have won but we were playing against the best in the world. I think we did very well in the circumstances, we were just unlucky with the scoreline."