Eddie Nketiah has emerged as Arsenal’s first-choice No. 9 in recent weeks. Giving him a new contract makes sense for the club, but the player will likely remain stubborn with his demands. What should the Gunners do?
There is one thing that is clear: Alexandre Lacazette should not be offered a new deal. You’d like to think that Arsenal have learned their lesson when it comes to offering aging, declining players contracts. Nketiah, on the other hand, should be handed a fresh contract; but that is easier said than done.
Eddie has been terrific since his first Premier League start of the season against Southampton on April 16. Result aside, you could immediately tell that the youngster has more to offer than Lacazette. The Frenchman was available for the next game – Chelsea away – but Mikel Arteta kept faith in Nketiah who bagged a brace at Stamford Bridge to resuscitate Arsenal’s top-four hopes. Against Manchester United he was busy again, causing problems, providing a direct and pacey option up top. Despite no goals or assists against West Ham on Sunday, Nketiah had an average match rating of 7.81 (WhoScored) and lead the line with purpose.
Having not been given a fair whack at starting up front in the league, Nketiah has barely put a foot wrong since replacing Lacazette in the starting XI last month. Has he done enough to prove to Arteta that he deserves to be his first-choice striker? Eddie wants to be Arsenal’s go-to guy, but it is hard to guarantee that this will be the case if he signs a new deal – with his contract expiring at the end of 2021/22.
It looks like he is putting in the extra mileage and giving the club something to think about in the process. Perhaps being the starting striker ahead of Lacazette has elevated his game to a new level. Perhaps it’s the prospect of Champions League football that is swaying him into altering his demands. Or maybe Nketiah is simply showing potential suitors what he is capable of.
What is clear is that Arteta is extremely eager for Nketiah to renew, the Spaniard is a huge fan of the 22-year-old. Looking at his statistics on fbref, he has 0.50 expected goals per game, is high up on the list for numerous passing statistics in comparison to his fellow Premier League strikers and even offers something special when his team does not have the ball. Nketiah averages 12.34 pressures in the attacking third per 90, with Burnley’s Wout Weghorst leading the league with 12.85. His direct style of play is evident when looking at his ball-carrying stats. Whether it is carries into the penalty area/final third or total carrying distance per 90, you can tell that Nketiah is not afraid to run with the ball and take a shot on.
Arsenal have now overtaken their points tally from last season (61) with four games remaining (63). 📈 pic.twitter.com/aUQPN6fxNz
— Connor Humm (@TikiTakaConnor) May 1, 2022
However, the transfer window is approaching and a number of top players are being linked with a move to the Emirates. Champions League qualification is imperative to improving our squad over the summer, with Benfica’s Darwin Nunez, Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez unlikely to have any interest in playing in the Europa League next term. You can say that Nketiah has not been given enough time to prove his credentials to the Arsenal staff and fans, but I think he has. Despite his positive performances, he should not be the Gunners’ No. 9. Keeping the England under-21s top scorer would be a bonus and would save Arsenal a lot of hassle, but he – quite rightly – has his mind set on leading the line for a Premier League outfit.
Crystal Palace seems to be a good fit for him, despite Nketiah reportedly rejecting a move to Selhurst Park last summer. Newcastle could be a solid option, as could Brentford, West Ham or Brighton.
If Nketiah gives in to Arsenal’s demands, it would suit the club perfectly and could potentially suit the player as well, with it unlikely that he will get more game time for a top six rival. Having said that, it appears clear in the player’s mind what he wants to do; which means he will be elsewhere in 2022/23.