LONDON -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised Alex Iwobi's "exceptional" abilities as a playmaker after he filled in for the sick Mesut Ozil on Sunday, but said the 20-year-old still needs to add more goals to his game.
Iwobi was at the heart of most Arsenal attacks and scored the second goal in the 2-0 victory at the Emirates when he headed in a failed clearance in the 56th minute. It was his first Premier League start in the No. 10 position, brought on by an illness to Ozil, and he was also involved in the counter-attack that led to Olivier Giroud's spectacular opening goal in the first half.
Iwobi, who normally plays on the wing, now has three goals for the season after not getting his first until Dec. 6. And Wenger said it's the one part of his game that can improve.
"I think he had a very good game, on top of that now he starts to score goals," Wenger said. "His quality of pass, of availability, is exceptional for a young boy. I lacked a little bit quality of reception in dangerous areas.
"And I hope that these goals he scores now will give him the taste as well to go [into positions] where he can finish it off. Scoring goals is always a science, when a guy starts to score goals in training they come in games. And he has that now, in training he starts to score goals. I'm sure he will score as well in the games."
The Nigeria international, who was born in Lagos but moved to London as a boy, came out of Arsenal's Hale End academy and has quickly become a key part of Wenger's side after breaking into the first team last season. And he showed against Palace that Wenger has plenty of options, even without Ozil, who has yet to sign a contract extension with the Gunners.
"He is always available, quick in his movement, wants the ball, can hold people off," Wenger said. "He's 20 years old, people forget that."
Wenger also had praise for Granit Xhaka, who finished with a game-high 95 completed passes for Arsenal and is having an increasingly big influence on the team as a deeper-lying playmaker.
"I must say Granit had today an exceptional distribution, on long balls and short balls," Wenger said. "And he's looking more confident and has more weight in our game."