Alex Iwobi has been an ever-present for Everton this season

Nigeria international Alex Iwobi believes shrugging off negative criticism of his game has helped him grow in Everton’s midfield.

The 26-year-old’s controversial form meant he endured an indifferent start to life on Merseyside after joining the Toffees from youth club Arsenal in 2019.

But the Super Eagle has been impressive in a central midfield role under manager Frank Lampard this season and has earned plaudits for Premier League performances that have shown good selection and distribution of passes.

“I used to watch and listen to what people were saying about me,” Iwobi told BBC Sport Africa.

“But I’m at an age where the only criticism I really respond to is from myself. I’m the one who judges my performances at the end of the day.

“I feel external factors [like the manager] telling me what I can improve and what I can do to get better.

“But I just focus on my own opinion because it’s my own opinion that matters to me.”

Iwobi enjoyed a career at Arsenal, scoring 15 goals in 149 games for the Gunners, but the next phase of his career at Everton – first under Marco Silva, then Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez – went wrong. as hoped.

The former England youth international enjoyed playing in a variety of positions under his previous managers but admits he is a better player now than he was two years ago.

“I’m playing more in midfield now, my engine has got to work up and down the pitch,” he added.

“I link the game from defense to attack, so whenever I am called upon to play, my qualities and attributes are used to advantage.”

Alex Iwobi in action for Nigeria
Iwobi helped Nigeria win their first two 2023 African Cup of Nations qualifiers

Iwobi also had to face harsh criticism during his international career with Nigeria, who he chose to represent after playing for England.

After receiving insults online he deactivated his Instagram account after receiving a red card in West Africa’s round of 16 defeat to Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations in January, but has since returned to the social media platform.

​Although he missed Nigeria’s crucial World Cup play-off defeat to Ghana in March due to suspension, Iwobi – who has scored 10 goals in 59 appearances for the three-time African champions – has since featured in two friendlies matches and June qualifiers for the 2023 Nations Cup.

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