Eddie Nketiah equalled Alan Shearer’s record for the most England U21 goals when he netted against Andorra in midweek.
A bright start to the season for club and country has seen the Arsenal youngster demonstrate why he could be an important player at Emirates Stadium for years to come.
Nketiah’s record-equalling strike on international duty is not of great importance in itself. However, it is key in that he has demonstrated a genuine goal-scoring threat at the age of just 21. Granted, many of his international goals have come against opposition far below Premier League level, but you can only play against the team in front of you.
Indeed, Nketiah has made a similar impact at club level for Arsenal after he was recalled from a topsy-turvy loan spell at Leeds on New Year’s Day. In his first appearance under Mikel Arteta, he scored against Bournemouth in the FA Cup Fourth Round with a wonderfully taken strike. In the next round against Portsmouth, the Hale End graduate showed his striker’s instinct once again, nipping in at the near post to squeeze the ball in.
Appearing with regularity in Arteta’s starting XI after lockdown, Nketiah was rewarded for his energetic display at Southampton with a goal when his relentless pressing forced Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy into a mistake that left the centre-forward with an open net.
That goal conveys most effectively why he should not be underestimated under the tutelage of Arteta. His desire to do what is instructed of him to help the team to victory is rare in such a young player. Combine that understanding with his poaching ability inside the area and it is easy to see why the Spaniard and his coaching staff rate Nketiah so highly.
Tactically, he is an invaluable asset to Arsenal. In the same way Alexandre Lacazette looks to press from the front, Nketiah buzzes round the field tirelessly, intent and focused on winning the ball back for his side. Arsenal have two strikers who are willing to do the dirty work. This means they are more likely to produce a performance of high intensity for the full 90 minutes, which consequently increases their chances of victory. They struggled to do this last season, drawing as many league games as they won (14).
Goalscoring was another glaring issue for the Gunners last campaign. Arsenal relied far too heavily on skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored 22 of their 56 league goals in 2019/20, their worst goal-scoring record in nearly 25 years. Along with the dynamism that new signing Thomas Partey brings in central midfield, the option to rotate Nketiah and Lacazette should help Arteta as he seeks to ignite Arsenal’s attack.
Thanks to the presence of Nketiah, Arsenal also have the luxury of two goal-scoring number nines, a need their rivals have struggled to fill. Manchester United are paying Edinson Cavani, who arrived at Old Trafford on deadline day to complete a free transfer, around £200,000 per week. Spurs have also found it difficult to find a reliable, ready-made back-up option to Harry Kane. Their latest attempt to find such a player resulted in the signing of Carlos Vinicus on loan from Benfica, who they have an option to buy at the end of the season for £36 million.
If Arteta hadn’t given Nketiah a run in the side, he may have felt the need to add depth up front. However, he has been impressed by the young Englishman’s ability and application to this point and there is, without doubt, more to come from Eddie Nketiah in an Arsenal shirt.