Eddie Nketiah Given A Chance By Mikel Arteta
When Eddie Nketiah was limited to just four league starts in 2020-21, his time at Arsenal appeared over. Given a fresh chance by Mikel Arteta down the stretch in 2021-22, Nketiah could yet extend his stay at the north London club, and his stock has soared.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang departed for Barcelona in January. Alexandre Lacazette fell out of favour with his contract running down.
Arteta opted for Nketiah over Lacazette in the final months of the season, with the Frenchman ultimately scoring just one goal in 2022. In contrast, Nketiah wrapped up the campaign with five non-penalty goals in just 835 Premier League minutes.
Nketiah’s contract is also expiring, however. Arteta has shown faith in him, but there is no guarantee he will still be at the Emirates when next season kicks off in August.
The Gunners have been linked with strikers aplenty from Darwin Nunez to Adam Hlozek, from Luis Suarez to Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison.
Removing Aubameyang and Lacazette’s wages gives the club renewed financial flexibility as they aim to find the perfect complementary striker for Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe.
The movement of Nketiah has created space for his fellow attackers. He’s quick, he works tirelessly to attack the channels, and he’s a good finisher.
Still only 22, he’s got a way to go before he could be at the level of the strikers Arsenal are pursuing.
Arteta’s Arsenal have looked at their best on the break, which is where Nketiah thrives, but having a striker with better link-up play and a more complete game is a necessity if they really want to rival Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Perhaps Nketiah will never be that man…
The question then comes with what Nketiah wants, and how much Arsenal can offer him. He’s shown he can be an effective squad player at the very least.
Is that enough to keep him at the club when he could go elsewhere and be a first choice in the Premier League? What comes next is not clear for the Lewisham native.
According to Nketiah on The Beautiful Game Podcast, the Gunners have made offers to keep him at the club.
He said, “There have been offers of a new contract but at the moment my aim is to play football and play regularly. That’s my ambition and that’s what I hope to do but at the same time I’m at Arsenal. I love Arsenal.
“What I can say is just that I love the club. I’m a childhood supporter as well, people need to remember this.
“It has always been my goal to be the number nine for Arsenal and that only. I think I’m good enough to do that and I’ve always been driven towards that.”
If he doesn’t reach an agreement on a new contract, Crystal Palace are reportedly in the box seat, meaning a link up with Arsenal icon Patrick Vieira.
The Eagles are an exciting team under Vieira. Putting Nketiah in a frontline with Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze, and Michael Olise would be a lot of fun.
As his quotes illustrate, though, Nketiah’s main focus is clearly on staying at Arsenal. There might be a gap between what he thinks his role should be and what the club are willing to offer, however.
The substantial rumours about Gabriel Jesus could prove to be off putting for Nketiah, who can justifiably feel like he deserves a shot at being first choice in 2021-22.
Following the final match of the Premier League season, Arteta spoke on his out of contract players, saying, “I will speak to the three players and after that we need to move on, but we have clear ideas of what we want to do. It’s been decided, but it’s very difficult to communicate.”
The Spaniard also discussed Nketiah specifically.
“When you see Eddie train the way he trains, he doesn’t even need to play because you know that you have a player there who is going to help you. Look at his numbers with the amount of games that’s he played – it’s terrific.”
While Arteta clearly has a high opinion of Nketiah, the youngster still has his doubters. Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown thinks the Gunners need to look for a new centre forward.
“As a defender, I was talking about Ian Wright, Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka the other day, these guys give you belief that you can win games.
“We (defenders) throw ourselves in front of balls to block things, because eventually, they (strikers) are going to get the chance to win us the game. (Eddie) Nketiah has done an amazing job, but we know he is a second-string striker, not an A-liner.”
The hierarchy at the Emirates is unlikely to be relying on Keown’s opinions when it comes to deciding their transfer policy. Keown isn’t alone in thinking that Nketiah falls short of being the number nine for a club with Arsenal’s aspirations, though.
There is a reason he was unable to break through until this season. There is a reason Arsenal are chasing more established strikers.
Arteta giving Nketiah a run in the team could have changed the trajectory of his career. It’s not so long ago that he was limited to just two starts during his loan at Leeds.
The list of potential suitors if he is available as a free agent has increased considerably due to his form late in the season, and larger contracts will be on the table.
Should Nketiah walk away from the club, it could be a decision Arsenal regret. It could just as easily prove to be a non-factor in the coming seasons. Even if he ends up being a good Premier League forward, that doesn’t mean he was up to it long-term at Arsenal.
Nketiah stats per 90 over last 365 days
- Non-penalty goals – 0.54
- Non-penalty expected goals – 0.50
- Shots – 3.02
- Expected assists – 0.15
- Shot-creating actions – 2.48
- Passes attempted – 25.11
- Pass completion – 80.3%
- Progressive passes – 1.08
- Progressive carries – 4.63
- Dribbles completed – 1.08
- Progressive passes received – 7.65
- Pressures – 19.19
- Tackles – 1.29
- Interceptions – 0.65
- Aerials won – 0.97