Eddie Nketiah has been on-form while on-loan at Leeds United in the Championship this season. The striker has four goals and an assist in nine appearances, good for a goal every 82 minutes of action. So why the recent rumblings about Arsenal possibly ending his loan spell in the January window?
Well for one, a noted trash rag seems to have thrown something at the wall to see what sticks, as they are want to do. But even if there is no substance to the rumor, it makes sense that the Gunners might be less than happy with how things are playing out. Despite assurances from Leeds United manager Marco Bielsa about role and playing time, Nketiah has only played 16% of the possible minutes available. Thus far, Bielsa has preferred Patrick Bamford who “has had more time with [Leeds], has more experience, and is older.”
football.london reports that there have been no discussions between the player and either club about a potential recall but that Arsenal loan manager Ben Knapper is keeping an eye on things. Nketiah cannot be recalled until the transfer window opens, so at least until January, he is stuck at Elland Road. If he is recalled, he would likely be sent back out on loan, with Bristol City as one of the likely destinations. The Robins were interested in Nketiah over the summer and need a replacement for starting striker Benik Afobe who is out for the season with an ACL injury.
Looking at Nketiah’s current situation, I can’t help but to think of comments Arsene Wenger recently made about Serge Gnabry’s loan at West Brom — that it destroyed his confidence and stifled his development. The setback cost Gnabry playing time at Arsenal, which is one of the reasons he wanted a move away from the club.
We tend to think of loans as a good way for young players to develop and grow but that isn’t always the case. This is not to say that Nketiah is definitely heading down the Gnabry path. But the lack of promised playing time, especially in the face of Nketiah’s production, is a warning sign that Arsenal would do well to heed.