Eddie Nketiah was excluded from Sunday’s prolific 3-1 victory against Liverpool, and would be a massive blow for the 24-year-old as it was a game he would undoubtedly have wished to be a part of.
Due to a ‘short-term’ knee injury, Gabriel Jesus was left out of the weekend’s action, leaving fans to speculate about who would take his place. To the surprise of some supporters, Kai Havertz was the player selected to fill his role, despite still facing criticism, particularly regarding his confidence in front of goal.
This decision saw the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Leonardo Trossard maintain their position on the bench. Despite making 21 appearances, 10 of which in the starting line-up this season, Nketiah has only scored 5 goals. His last feature in the starting 11 was during Arsenal’s loss to Fulham at the end of last year, but during that match, he struggled to influence the game and posed little goal threat.
Nevertheless, despite his lack of form, there is no denying that Eddie has previously demonstrated his ability to replace Jesus and deliver crucial goals for his side. The most recent example of this was his first Premier League hat-trick against Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium back in October. The forward’s commanding performance led to Arsenal’s 5-0 victory, with him leading the front line, leaving Mikel Arteta to express his admiration for him by stating, “For me, he is top level.”
Since that game, Nketiah has failed to find the back of the net in the Premier League. Nonetheless, Arsenal was eager to keep their number 14 during the transfer window, despite the likes of Crystal Palace showing significant interest in signing him. The Englishman has previously expressed his desire for regular playing time, making it understandable that a move away from his boyhood club would be appealing to him, due to his lack of starts since the return of Jesus.
Fans were positive about the potential move in the hope it would pave the way for the addition of a striker following a run of disappointing fixtures where the Gunners struggled to capitalize on their scoring opportunities. The most talked about candidate to sign appeared to be Brentford’s Ivan Toney. However as per Fabrizio Romano, “Ivan Toney would be an excellent option, but the problem is he is very expensive as Brentford wants crazy money or nothing.”
Despite the Gunners recent improvement in scoring, 10 goals in their last three games, pundits are still skeptical about the quality of finishing provided by the forwards in Mikel Arteta’s side. Gary Neville is, as usual, amongst one of Arsenal’s critics as he described Havertz as ‘languid’ in the box during yesterday’s game. He went on to praise Jesus and his versatility but criticised that “when you want him in the center of the six-yard box he’s probably on the right wing! Or at right-back!”
When discussing Nketiah, Neville labelled him as the most ‘natural’ striker of them all praising him for his killer instinct in front of goal. However, he also implied that he is not at the same level as players such as Havertz and Jesus in terms of overall quality.
With Arsenal set to face West Ham at the London Stadium next weekend, they will be desperate to grab all three points to stay within reach of Liverpool. Therefore, making the most of their chances will be crucial. If Jesus is further sidelined, it remains to be seen whether Arteta will continue to start Kai Havertz ahead of Eddie Nketiah, a decision which could potentially mark the Hale-end graduate’s last season in North London.