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Arsene Wenger backs Alex Iwobi to be 'great player for Arsenal'

Alex Iwobi, right, has made the transition to the first team this season.

Arsene Wenger has praised the rapid progression of Alex Iwobi after the 19-year-old was promoted to Arsenal's first-team squad.

Iwobi has made a positive impression when selected this season, including making four substitute appearances in the Premier League and two straight starts in the FA Cup.

Wenger hailed the promotion as a big step for the teenager, who joined the Arsenal academy as an eight-year-old and has been a regular scorer for the under-21s.

"It's a very important moment," Wenger said in the matchday programme for Sunday's 2-1 win over Leicester City. "Every player has to fight hard here to get in there. He came through the youth ranks and he has made it quietly, slowly, but remarkably, I must say.

"He moved into the first-team dressing room and I hope he will be in there for a long time."

Iwobi, the nephew of former Nigeria international Jay-Jay Okocha, has shown his versatility by playing both on the wing and as a central midfielder for Arsenal.

He impressed in the central role in the FA Cup against both Sunderland and Burnley, showing good timing in his passing and a willingness to take on defenders.

He was a regular on the Arsenal bench in November and December when the team struggled with injuries, but has yet to make his first Premier League start. However, Wenger said he is convinced Iwobi will have a larger role going forward.

"Personally I believe this boy will be a great player for Arsenal Football Club," Wenger said. "He has all the ingredients, not only on the footballing front but also mentally.

"He's intelligent, motivated, focused every day, has a consistent attitude and I'm very happy for him."

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

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