When Alex Iwobi was given a selection of squad numbers to choose from in the summer of 2015, they started at No.35 and above. At that stage in his career, he was still very much a youth team player and could only dream of the situation they find themselves in now. He chose the No.45.
One year after that and Iwobi got a similar message about his squad number. This time, he was being told to vacate his No.45 because it was reserved for youth team players. He was part of the senior squad now and needed a number that represented it.
It would have been perfectly understandable if Iwobi wanted to keep the No.45 on his back. It was, after all, the number he was wearing when he broke into Arsene Wenger's plans and could have been seen as a lucky omen for the 20-year-old.
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But Iwobi jumped at the opportunity to get a lower number and, upon hearing of Alexis Sanchez's move to the No.7, jumped at the chance to take the shirt he had just vacated, No.17.
In a widespread interview with the Evening Standard, Arsenal's latest academy graduate explained why he chose it.
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'Start my own thing'
“We were on a summer break and I was just chilling at home,” he said. “I got a message saying, ‘Alex, you may have to change your number as No45 is a youth team number’.
“They gave me options and I thought I would like to pick 17 because I heard Alexis was moving to No7 so I thought ‘let me write my own legacy with No17’.
“It doesn’t have any significance — it is just a number I like and I want to start my own thing with it.”
Iwobi has become a first-team regular for the Gunners this season, starting three of their opening six Premier League games including their last two. That fact could be very different, however, if Wenger granted his request to represent Nigeria at the Olympic Games.
Iwobi chose to represent the Super Eagles over England last season and was hoping to travel with his teammates to Rio de Janeiro, only for Wenger to reject his request.
He admits he was disappointed by the Frenchman's decision but understands it could have adversely affected his position within the team.
“I would like to have played in the Olympics — doing that would have been a big thing for me,” he said.
“If I had gone, I would have missed a couple of Arsenal games at least and the boss didn’t want that.
“I wish I did go but at the end of the day I did what the boss wanted and I am happy to be where I am. If I hadn’t gone, I might not be where I am now.”
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