MAKING A CASE FOR EDDIE NKETIAH by Funsho
You’re probably thinking this article was written cos of Eddie’s recent hat-trick for the England U21s vs Kosovo. Well, you’re wrong! This offering has been baking in the writer’s oven for some time now, but time and chance did not synchronise soon enough to get this vanilla cake out for your enjoyment. Anyway, several questions have been asked of our 21-year-old centre forward’s ability to succeed at Arsenal after graduating from kindergarten (uhm! I meant Hale End Academy), and in such an opinionated social media era as this, most have asked for our Number 30 to either be loaned out or sold. This writer believes Edward Keddar Nketiah (a.k.a. Eddie) is good enough to PROGRESS his career at Arsenal, and this will be elucidated in three different scenarios.
Wait a minute! Remember those two goals against Norwich in the League cup with chants of ‘Eddie! Eddie!’ ringing around the stadium? That was probably his introduction to most gooners. Truth is: there may have been some luck on his side (AW probably didn’t make that substitution, hoping the 18-yr-old will turn the game on it’s head) on that marvellous night in 2017, but the boy always had that hunger for goals; no wonder he always asks every Tom, Dick and Harry in the stands to “call me if you need a goal” during his goal celebrations.
Hopefully you noticed this article plans to emphasise the lad’s need for improvement, but honestly, how folks think of binning a guy who scored 16 goals in 15 games and 12 goals in 26 games for the U-18s and U-23s respectively in the 16/17 season is beyond me! Now, that was a joke, cos I see the argument tugging your heart already, “…come off it man! That’s not the same level as top flight football?” True; but why not give him a chance in the first team for 2/3 seasons since he is a consistent goal scorer at every level?
With 2 goals until he equals Francis Jeffers and Alan Shearer’s records for England U-21s, Eddie is a good prospect but not the finished article yet, and you kinda hope he goes the same road as the latter rather than the former. Look, not every player will be quick off the blocks like Jack Wilshere, Matthijs de Ligt or Kylian Mbappe. Nketiah could bloom later (closer to his mid-20s) like Bayern sensation Serge Gnabry, and if not, just sell him. Imagine Gnabry’s market value now…Whoozah! The German’s story makes it easy to plead the case of our British-Ghanaian striker that, ‘maybe he deserves a chance’ as he’s a prolific goalscorer having scored in every competition he’s played-in for the club. So, how could this Eddie Nketiah movie play out from 20/21 season onwards? Please check out each scenario…
Scenario 1: Lacazette stays and hits top form; Eddie is second choice and keeps the Frenchman on his toes.
Laca may have been inconsistent in 19/20, but when in top form, he’s better than Eddie. Even if Eddie kept Laca was on the bench a few times after lockdown, the 5ft 11’ striker is still a rookie learning his trade. If this scenario plays out, the young CF will have to take his chances in the cup ties by the scruff of the neck and cap good performances with goals. He must learn to put chances away like the ones he scuffed (or that Allison saved) in the Community Shield, so the club won’t have to ‘buy Saliba cos Mavropanos isn’t ready’. You get my point?
Scenario 2: Lacazette leaves; Aubameyang stays as LWF, Nketiah consistently plays as CF cos the club couldn’t buy a replacement before October 6th.
While not the most ideal option, a good run of games and goals here and there could help Eddie gain confidence and further improve his game. Let’s face it, this guy’s a goalscorer, and at his age, confidence, belief and encouragement are key to finally seeing him make the cut at a top club like Arsenal. This is where MA and his coaching crew come in. They need to build up Eddie’s game like Raheem Sterling’s, such that he’ll: be more switched on when he gets a chance in tough matches, improve his chance conversion ratio, make better decisions in the opponent’s box and no longer have that dejected ‘defeatist look’ on his face even if he misses a chance. Let them get him to shoot better under pressure, improve his off-the-ball movement, anticipate and read game-plays better, and boldly run with the ball at defenders old enough to be his father. The coaching staff could purify this diamond in the hot furnace of demand and expectation, instead of the club having to spend 50 odd million on similar quality.
Scenario 3: Lacazette leaves; Arsenal buy a new CF like that dude from Celtic—Edouard, and Nketiah remains the team’s second choice striker.
The 22-year-old Frenchman could become world class at Arsenal, but that could reduce Eddie’s chances. And rightly so, cos big teams tend to pursue immediate success, but with Arsenal dilly-dallying on more pressing needs like Aouar and Partey, you have to doubt the recruitment team’s ability to quickly get a replacement if they end up selling Lacazette late in the transfer window.
That takes us back to scenario 2 with Auba and Eddie the only CF options (well, also academy boys like John-Jules and maybe Folarin Balogun). Will these available options be enough? DOUBT IT. Will Eddie do a decent job? THINK SO. Will Eddie score goals? BELIEVE SO. Does he have a good hold up play in him? HMMM…COULD BE BETTER. Can Arteta and his crew successfully adapt Arsenal’s game plan to deliver balls for Eddie in the danger area for him to attack, seeing that he could be an effective fox-in-the-box? MOST ASSUREDLY – YES.
In conclusion, this writer believes Lacazette staying is the most ideal situation for all involved. Being more experienced and improving rapidly as a target man, an in-form Laca is more desirable in Arteta’s set up. Eddie should stay grounded and judiciously utilise every opportunity he gets. And if he keeps chipping in with goals, he could become an even bigger asset to the Gunners’ squad.
Whether he becomes an Arsenal legend or goes elsewhere to make himself a good career, the ball seems to be in Eddie’s court. Hope you make it Eddie!
Really appreciate you reading along…