Nigeria international Alex Iwobi believes shutting out negative criticism of his game has helped his growth in Everton’s midfield.
The 26-year-old’s inconsistent form has meant he has endured an indifferent start to life on Merseyside after joining the Toffees from boyhood club Arsenal in 2019.
But the Super Eagle has been impressive in a central midfield role under manager Frank Lampard this season and earned rave reviews for Premier League displays which have showcased both good pass selection and distribution.
“Before I used to take a look and listen out for what people say about me,” Iwobi told BBC Sport Africa.
“But I’m at this age where the only criticism I really react upon is from myself. I’m the one that judges my performances at the end of the day.
“I do get external factors [like the manager] telling me what I can improve on 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 came through the ranks at Arsenal, scoring 15 goals in 149 games for the Gunners, but the next chapter of his career at Everton – first under Marco Silva, then Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez – did not go initially as hoped.
The former England youth international relished playing in different positions under his previous managers but admits he is a better player now than two years ago.
“Now I’m playing more in midfield, my engine has been required to run up and down the pitch,” he added.
“I link the play from defence to attack, so whenever I’m called upon to play, my qualities and attributes have been used to an advantage.”
Iwobi has also had to deal with intense criticism during his international career with Nigeria, who he chose to represent after playing for England.
After receiving online abuse following his red card in the West Africans’ Round of 16 defeat by Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations in January, he deactivated his Instagram account as a result but has since returned to the social media platform.
Although he missed Nigeria’s decisive World Cup play-off defeat by Ghana in March through suspension, Iwobi – who has 10 goals in 59 appearances for the three-time African champions – has since featured in two friendlies and June’s 2023 Nations Cup qualifiers.