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Eddie Nketiah: The goal was great, but a move might be better

What is the best path forward for the young striker?

Arsenal v FC Bayern - 2019 International Champions Cup Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Eddie Nketiah is one of many emerging talents from the Arsenal Academy. Some whom have broken into the senior team in recent years (Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles), those who have begun knocking on the door (Reiss Nelson, Joe Wilock, and Emile Smith Rowe) and another group of prospects ready for their chance, if not this season then next, (Tyreece John-Jules, Bukayo Saka, Robbie Burton, etc.).

Nketiah falls squarely in that second group. Arsenal fans are familiar with him, but he hasn’t secured regular starts or time with the first team. Having Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Danny Welbeck in front of you will obviously create limited opportunities. But after two seasons jumping between the U23s and a 4th striker role, 2019/20 is decision time for club and player.

Nketiah’s contributions

The 20-year-old has made 19 appearances over the past two seasons. Tallying three goals, two of those in that wonderful EFL Cup victory against Norwich City. However, most of the time he is getting clean-up minutes or is used as a time wasting substitution late in the match. Eddie has played in eight Premier League matches for a total of just 79 minutes.

Across all senior level competitions in which he has appeared he’s only been given 458 minutes. That averages out to about 24 minutes a game, a goal every 152 minutes. Not bad, but he’s shown the ability for more.

At the academy level (U18s and then U23s) across league, cup competitions, and European tournaments, Nketiah has racked up 57 goals + assists. A goal/assist every 74 minutes. He has the quality, he just needs more time—consistent starting time.

2019/20 Options

At the moment it’s easy to say Eddie is the 3rd striker option. And Arsenal need another option behind Lazazette and Aubameyang. But will that be the best use for Nketiah? He’s already done the fill in when needed, start a few ‘lesser’ matches, but mostly getting time with the U23s for two years now. If Unai Emery can’t commit to starting Nketiah at least 10-15 matches this season, a loan option would be a better route for the upcoming campaign.

30+ starts at the Championship or League One level would be more beneficial for the player and for the club to evaluate his future, than late match sub appearances for Arsenal.

Gabriel Martinelli has been Arsenal’s lone signee thus far this window and unless there are work visa issues, he should remain with the first team. Both to acclimate to life with Arsenal and also provide those minutes left open by Welbeck and possibly Nketiah. Tyreece John-Jules looks to be the clear contender to lead the line for the U23s and could always be called up as needed for depth.

It’s a huge experience and reliability drop off after the front two in the striker depth chart. But Arsenal have youthful options ready to close that gap when given the chance. Exciting for fans and much needed during this time period of reshaping the club and lower revenue.