Despite his hat-trick in the League Cup, Eddie Nketiah is still likely to leave Arsenal at the end of the season.
In May he turns 23. He needs to start playing regular first team football.
He would have seen the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe come up behind him, pass him and now become members of the England squad. Meanwhile Nketiah is one of those players still playing U21 football despite being over age.
In 2018 he was England’s top scorer as they won the Toulon Tournament.
He would have since watched the likes of Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Lewis Cook and Aaron Ramsdale all win caps for England.
The likes of Freddie Woodman, Kyle Walker-Peters, Tom Davies, Adam Armstrong, Hamza Choudhury & Jonjoe Kenny have also gone on to become first team regulars at different levels of the game.
Nketiah needs to move on to kick on his own career. Even if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leaves in January, a new striker will be bought in by Edu and Mikel Arteta.
And if Alex Lacazette leaves in the summer, it is more likely that they will go out and sign a second striker rather than promote Nketiah.
Nketiah has shown himself to be lethal at a youth level and has performed well in League Cup games against lesser opposition.
If he was 18 or 19 doing this, you would say he has potential. At 22/23 doing it, you would maybe say he has found his level.
Not that his level is Sunderland, but that his level is performing against those lesser teams.
I have always questioned whether he has the all round game to play for a top 4 hunting team.The hat-trick against a League One side has done nothing to change my opinion.
He is going to end up one of those players that in the Championship, scored 25+ goals a season, but then when promoted struggles to get to double figures.
Nketiah’s future is at a Fulham or Norwich City. Not an Arsenal.
Moving him on makes sense for Arsenal as well.
We need to start focusing on the next generation – starting with Folarin Balogun.
Balogun needs a 6 month loan deal from January to get some senior game time. The worry is without this he will end up another Nketiah – smashing up the youth levels where it is too easy for him but not really getting a chance at senior level.
We also have the likes of Nikolaj Möller, Mika Bierieth and Omari Hutchinson in the pipeline.
Moving on Nketiah puts Balogun into the first team squad as 3rd choice striker. This frees up more playing time in the PL2 for the next generation.
At the moment Nketiah is blocking Balogun’s progress, meaning the younger man is having to play a level below himself. That then blocks those younger than him.
Eddie will be on a high today following a hat trick. That performance might be good news for Arsenal as those teams fighting in the relegation battle – Leeds United, Watford, Newcastle and Norwich City – might decide to risk £10million on him in the hope he scores the goals to keep them in the league.
Nketiah is clearly a good lad. But his future is away from Arsenal.