The reaction to Mikel Arteta’s starting lineup against Manchester City was mixed. Many were surprised that the manager went for youth in the Gunners’ first competitive match since March. Arteta has been impressed with a number of the young players that have come through the club’s academy, andt hree of them, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka, got the nod ahead of a number of more experienced players on Wednesday.
Despite the 3-0 defeat, Arteta saw positives in the match. He specifically pointed out the pace of Nketiah, which caused a few problems for Man City’s defenders. In the opening minutes of the match, Nketiah broke through but was flagged offside. Later in the half, he looked to be away but was hauled down by Eric Garcia and didn’t get the call. Arteta described the 21-year old striker as “extraordinary.”
He believes Nketiah will play an important role for Arsenal in the future and sees Nketiah pushing for playing time and challenging Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli for a central role in Arsenal’s front line.
I want him to keep doing what he’s doing. The way he played last night against those players, in those difficult conditions, for me is extraordinary at his age. He has an immense personality to play, confidence, he’s powerful and is developing in every area I think. I have a lot of faith in him.
The global coronavirus pandemic has caused financial troubles for all clubs, and it’s expected that big signings will be limited this summer. With that in mind, Arteta is planning to develop his young players while rebuilding his squad, and Nketiah blossoming into a bonafide Premier League striker could ease the potential upcoming departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Since returning from his early season loan at Leeds United, Nketiah has featured often under Arteta. He has started the Gunners’ last four league matches, and it is expected that he will continue to get opportunities before the end of the season.
Said Arteta of Nketiah:
We treat Eddie as an important part of our squad. We had to make an important decision not to let him go on loan again after the spell he had at Leeds. I watched him train and I was very convinced he was the right player for us to move us to the next level, that he can contribute in a big way to the way we want to play. He has been fantastic so far.
Including their FA Cup meeting with Sheffield United, Arsenal have at least ten matches remaining. Nketiah will get his chances to impress, and if he does, look for Arteta to give him more time going forward.