Arsenal are in talks with Alex Iwobi over another contract extension, Arsene Wenger has confirmed. The academy graduate has made a real impact in his first season in senior football, producing a series of exciting midfield displays and scoring either side of the recent international break in consecutive Premier League victories over Everton and Watford.
Iwobi, the Lagos-born nephew of Bolton Wanderers legend Jay-Jay Okocha, only signed a new long-term deal in October 2015 having impressed both for the U21s and during the Emirates Cup. Reports from The Mirror earlier this week stated that the Nigerian had secured an improved five-year agreement including higher wages worth approximately £30,000 per week. Sky Sports later disputed that claim, revealing that talks were ongoing and that no deal had yet been finalised.
"We are discussing it at the moment, yes, to extend him [contract]," Wenger was quoted as saying by Arsenal's official website during a press conference on Thursday (7 April). "I think he's a real Arsenal person because he's [been] here since the age of eight. He has three years left at the end of the season but we want of course to keep him here for longer. Overall, that's a positive in the last two months how well and how quickly he emerged as being a player with a good impact."
Iwobi's blistering form has also led to a debate concerning his international future. Although he had previously represented England up to U18 level, he eventually pledged his allegiance to Nigeria and made his debut during a 2-0 friendly defeat to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also featured as a substitute in the victory over Cameroon and made his competitive bow in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Egypt in Kaduna last month. His eagerness to play at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro has provoked fears that the 19-year-old could miss the start of next season.
Following on from their straightforward demolition of Watford, the Gunners face a difficult trip to top-four contenders West Ham United on 9 April knowing that they will surely have to win all of their remaining seven Premier League games to have any chance whatsoever of closing a daunting 11-point gap on leaders Leicester City. Key to their chances of victory will be containing the threat of immensely talented dead ball specialist Dimitri Payet, a player whom Wenger claims he watched frequently before his £10.7m ($14m) move from Marseille in June 2015.
"I have known him for a long, long time," he said. "When he played at St Etienne, he was there for a few years and we watched him many times. He has all the attributes to be a top, top player and he is that. He is 29-years-old already, but this season he has matured a lot as he has come back into the national team when he looked to be out. That shows he has been much more consistent. He has always had top talent, even when in periods he has been a bit up and down."