Eddie Nketiah has become a topic of conversation among the Arsenal support base and there seems to be two mean reasons for young English striker being on the agenda.
It is partly because there has been transfer speculation linking him with a move away from Arsenal, with first Wolves and more recently West Ham rumoured to be considering bids for young Eddie. The other factor, and I see this as particularly unfortunate, is that the England Under 21 record goal scorer, has, through no fault of his own, appears to be blamed by some for Folarin Balogun’s refusal to sign a deal to stay in North London.
Many, based on minimal evidence perhaps, see the American having a higher ceiling than Nketiah and see the latter’s recall early from his loan and Leeds and subsequent first team game time, as the reason for Balogun’s lack of first team opportunities. The truth of course, is that it is Arteta. Who watches both strikers in training has seen something in Eddie that he has not seen in Foloarin. Whether that was work rate, attitude, timing or simply football attributes, we cannot know but to see fault and turn on Eddie is flawed in my eyes.
We should not forget that until only as recently as December, Eddie Nketiah, was Arsenal’s top scorer and whenever he pulls on the shirt, he gives his absolute whole. This should be a minimum, or as his manager might phrase, a non-negotiable but there has been senior colleague where this basic requirement could be questioned.
Therefore, for me, the question about Nketiah’s future at Arsenal, is less about ability and more about the player’s ability to play in the new system. I do not for one minute think his finishing ability is up for debate. He has a natural poacher’s instinct and the accompanying ability to find space and take up the right position. In the 1990’s the likes of Cole and Fowler offered little outside the box, one could argue, but in the penalty area they came alive. However, in that era most teams played with a two-striker system and the fox in the box role was crucial. Also, now for Nketiah the Young Lions play with 2 natural wingers feeding him with low crosses of cutbacks.
Eddie’s issue and consequently the fans issue with him, is that Arteta is now wanting to play 4231 and the central striker role within that system does not play into his finisher attributes. In all honesty we have even seen the Great Aubameyang struggle in the sole striker berth of late, as the hold up and bringing others in to play are not the skipper’s strengths either.
Whilst not comparing the two players in ability for one second, Nketiah’s predicament today, and therefore the reason why he may struggle for game time, reminds me of when Eduardo returned from his horrific injuries. When injured the Croatian goal machine, has been playing alongside Adebayor, or van Persie in a 442. When he finally returned Wenger has reshaped the Gunners into a 4231, with RVP his main man. Eduardo found himself asked to play wide and it was a waste of his predatory attributes.
Nketiah has ice in his veins and is a natural predator, but he is slight of frame and not the quickest. The slight of frame part inhibits is strength of hold up pay, crucial in the 4231, to play where Lacazette plays and the lack of pace, means it would be hard for him to adapt to a wider role and Aubameyang can. Balogun seemingly has the strength and pace, which is why so many Arsenal fans would relish his promotion over his English teammate.
My personal view is that Eddie must now that he needs to play in a team that offers him a striker partner or one that plays a 433 variant with genuine wingers. At present his Arsenal manger has given up on 433 nd has never truly hinted at a two-striker system, at least not with a back four. In conclusion is the club received a good offer they found acceptable I believe they would consider it and I feel the player might as well. For all of the above reasons, this is firmly not because I do not believe in Eddie Nketiah as a footballer, but I do not believe his attributes will thrive in as a sole striker in our current preferred style and structure.
This is my unedited version of yesterday’s Sun column
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.