Arsenal FC captain Alex Iwobi is a key figure for his side in midfield and is enjoying the challenge of taking on Europe's best youngsters in the UEFA Youth League.
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Alex Iwobi has captained Arsenal FC in their four UEFA Youth League games this season. His side are second in Group D behind leaders RSC Anderlecht after the Belgian team completed the double over Steve Gatting's charges on Tuesday. Following the 2-1 home loss, the Lagos-born winger – the nephew of former Nigeria playmaker Jay-Jay Okocha – spoke to UEFA.com about the challenges presented by the competition and Arsenal's chances of qualifying for the knockout stage for the second successive season.
"Playing in the English league, it's a lot more physical and everything is quicker," said Iwobi. "But in the UEFA Youth League everything is more tactical, you have to be smarter. I wouldn't necessarily say that it is slower, but you have to think harder about your game, and it's more technical.
"The English league really tests our technique because everything is so quick, but in these group games you have to make every pass count, make every tackle count – you have to be so much sharper in your game."
There are less obvious off-the-field challenges connected with competing in the UEFA Youth League, too. "The travelling is a different experience for us but something that you have to get used to," added Iwobi, who made five appearances in the inaugural edition of the tournament last season. "It can be fun travelling abroad and we enjoy it, but the whole experience is very different from what we're used to."
The Anderlecht defeat was Arsenal's second against the Purples in a fortnight, the Gunners having succumbed 4-3 in Denderleeuw on 21 October. Iwobi, however, remains optimistic about progress to the last 16 with games to come at home to Borussia Dortmund and in Turkey versus Galatasaray AŞ – sides Arsenal beat 2-0 and 5-1 respectively earlier in the campaign.
"We're going to take the positives out of today's game, but as a team I think we can play better and there are things we can improve on," Iwobi added. "We have enough to get through and qualify from this group. We had a lot of possession and we created a lot of chances. Maybe we could have created a few more if we had been more effective with our passing."
On target in the victory over Galatasaray last month, Iwobi came close to adding to his UEFA Youth League goal tally with nine minutes left when he almost scored what would have been Arsenal's second equaliser. His close-range effort, though, was well-saved by Mile Svilar as the visitors held on for three points. "I was unfortunate there – I thought I had scored," he explained. "But the keeper, to be fair to him, played well and made a great save."