Having already signed the player while Everton manager, Marco Silva knows all about the qualities Alex Iwobi can bring to his Fulham side.
It may have only been a brief four-month Goodison Park dalliance – the midfielder joining from Arsenal on a five-year deal in August 2019 before Silva was duly sacked in December, but the player clearly remained on the Fulham boss’ radar ever since.
Iwobi’s Everton career was arguably one of unfulfilled promise, making 123 appearances (scoring six goals) during a period of turbulence at the Merseyside outfit.
However, this summer’s uncertainty around Joao Palhinha’s Fulham future nevertheless persuaded Silva to reunite with his former player to provide a versatile alternative within his squad.
For Iwobi, the move represented a homecoming to the city where he grew up along with the hope the more stable Craven Cottage surroundings can finally see the 27-year-old realise his potential.
Arriving at the end of the transfer window and carrying a small injury, Iwobi has had to wait for his opportunities, with his debut coming off the bench in the 1-0 home victory over Luton Town on September 16th.
The minutes have gradually built up from there as he has continually impressed off the bench – including scoring the winner against Norwich City in the League Cup Third Round.
His first Fulham start eventually came ahead of the international break earlier this month, with the Cottagers running out comfortable 3-1 winners over Sheffield United.
After the game, Silva was full of praise for the midfielder, saying: “Every time he is coming into games, he is making a very good impact.
“For Sheffield United, it was clear we needed a bit more creativity and he performed well and is only going to improve because his energy, dynamic decision-making and creativity is going to be important for us.
“He is going to improve but must adapt in the way we need to defend. He must adapt sometimes as a second midfielder and play side by side by Joao (Palhinha).”
At Everton, Iwobi played as an attacking creative midfielder and while Silva’s comments suggest he wants him to continue this role, he may also have to occasionally fill in as a holding midfielder as well.
Fulham’s tactics often revolve around two defensive-minded midfielders creating the solid base from which to launch their attacks down the wings.
Palhinha and Harrison Reed have been the midfield generals for the last 18 months, but with the former’s possible move to Bayern Munich still on the horizon, Silva is keen for Iwobi to show his quality in different areas of midfield.
While it may seem Iwobi’s arrival was due to offset Palhinha’s apparently imminent summer departure, Silva is constantly at pains to praise his new signing and underline how important he is to the squad on his own merit.
Iwobi’s increasingly impressive performances so far backs Silva’s narrative and, although his natural position is as an attacking midfielder, he has also been used centrally as well as deputising in the holding midfielder for Harrison Reed.
Against Chelsea he replaced Harry Wilson on the right and played even further forward against Tottenham, coming on as a half-time substitute for Andreas Pereira to underline his dynamic attacking prowess.
Iwobi’s versatility is not only testament to his footballing adaptability but also his determination to successfully integrate into any role Silva gives him.
Only time will tell whether Iwobi will be able to fix his sights on just one position but either way, the early signs suggest he has more than enough talent at his disposal to have a long and prosperous Fulham career.