The build-up to the FA Cup semi final clash between Man City and Arsenal was all about Iheanacho and Iwobi in the Nigerian press.
But as soon as the lineup was released, barely an hour before kickoff – the Super Eagles duo of Iwobi and Iheanachi could only make the bench for their respective teams. To the disappointment of many Super Eagles faithful; and maybe Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr – who would had wanted his players to be starters in high profile club games such as the FA Cup Semi-Finals.
Nigeria next competitive fixture is an AFCON qualifier match against South Africa next month. And would be followed by a crunch World Cup qualifier match against Cameroon. Gernot Rohr would be needing his players to be in top shape, and brewing with confidence as they get set to tackle this two important matches.
But, players often tend to show confidence and excellent shape for their national teams – once they are regulars at their clubs. Iwobi, 20, has not started a game for Arsenal since their 3-1 defeat at Liverpool in early March. And was even dropped to the Under-23 squad earlier this month. Indicating he now seem to be totally out of Arsenè Wenger’s plans for the rest of the season, at least.
Iheanacho has made only five league starts for City this season, with a further 13 appearances coming via the substitute’s bench, while scoring four goals.
He has also managed two starts and two goals in the Champions League, as well as three starts and a goal in the FA Cup. The arrival of Gabriel Jesus has further pushed the 20-year-old Nigeria international down the pecking order.
And as City fought for a winner at Wembley, Guardiola turned to Fabian Delph instead when he took Sergio Aguero off. Guardiola isn’t shy to omit the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup winner and most valuable player from the list of players he believes will go on to become the future of Man City.
Iwobi and Iheanacho however, have been pivotal to the success achieved recently by the Super Eagles under new head coach Gernot Rohr. The German hasn’t lost a match as coach of the team. And it was the duo that helped Rohr secure his maiden win as head coach of the Super Eagles in Zambia with their goals – a match Nigeria won 2-1.
Their confidence is set to drop as both players find games hard to come by in their respective clubs. It was embarrassing to see Iheanacho made to pass Sterling his jersey on the bench – as the English winger was getting himself prepared to be brought on in the clash at Wembley. For a talent like Iheanacho who should be starting that sort of game, it’s rather ridiculous.
These lads have shown a lot of time with their performances and stats that they are very much talented. But, it’s rather unfortunate they now find themselves under managers that seem not to be fully convinced about their obvious talents.
As the European league season comes to a close, so, also, is the future of the two Nigeria internationals looking bleak in their respective clubsides.
And with Guardiola looking to further strengthen his side in the Summer, it is only wise and critical for Iheanacho to start looking for other options – a club where his talent would be appreciated and his career given the much needed lift.
Iwobi too now have to start looking for better options. And a move away from a club where your talent is not valued and appreciated, to one that would value and appreciate it shouldn’t be disdained.
Odiko Godwin is a contributor for naijafootballplus.com, you can follow him on twitter: @OdikoGodwin