In a surprising development today, the Athletic’s David Ornstein reported that Eddie Nketiah would be returning to Arsenal for the duration of the 19/20 Premier League season following his loan spell to Championship side Leeds. With rumors swirling just a few short days ago that the recalled striker would be sent back out on loan, Mikel Arteta made the decision to retain Eddie after being impressed by the 19 year old England international in training.
Details on Arsenal decision to shelve Eddie Nketiah’s proposed loan move and keep him for the rest of the season. #AFC choice was Bristol City, he had not expressed a preference, Mikel Arteta was impressed in training and interevened. For @TheAthleticUK https://t.co/JZmx35KEux— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) January 15, 2020
In many ways, retaining Eddie makes sense. His loan to Leeds was a mixed bag - while he netted five times during his time at Elland Road, he struggled to break into the starting line up, often coming off the bench. He quickly endeared himself to fans, who questioned manager Marcelo Bielsa’s preference for the hot-and-cold Patrick Bamford over Nketiah during the course of his loan.
With loan’s designed to allow young or fringe players the chance to gain valuable game time and experience, the lack of consistent playing time certainly was not in Eddie’s best developmental interests. Some will argue that the potential lack of minutes at Arsenal is no different than inconsistent minutes out on loan, the chance to practice alongside his teammates and under new manager Mikel Arteta could prove to be equally as valuable for the striker.
Arsenal are also currently staring down the barrel of a striker crisis, albeit minor. With captain and leading goal scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s three match ban for his red card against Crystal Palace upheld today, Arsenal will need their remaining strikers to pitch in and make up for the goal scoring influence left in the wake of Auba’s absence. So far, Arsenal have had little luck getting the rest of the attack to contribute to the goal tally with as much efficiency as Aubameyang has.
In the attack, Eddie walks into a situation where he could see immediate playing time in the interim. Alexandre Lacazette is in the midst of an awful slump, Nicolas Pepe is still adapting to the Premier League, and Gabriel Martinelli is slowly making a name for himself. Eddie lit up the pitch during Arsenal’s pre-season, giving Arsenal fans hope that the Gunners’ successful academy players would come good with the first team. With the consistent appearances by Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson, Arteta has shown a willingness to rely on youth players when necessary.
Although the absence of Aubameyang is temporary, Arsenal are in clear need of another goal scorer to chip in on the score sheet. Eddie now has a chance to return to his parent club at an opportune time. With any luck, he can return to the form that had Gunner fans so excited in August, and his first chance could come as early as Saturday, when the Gunners face off against Sheffield United for the second time this season.