Arsenal has seen several youngsters “graduate” from prospect to first-team stars and Eddie Nketiah is just the latest. Though he took the hard way.
Mikel Arteta has absolutely excelled at getting the most out of his youngsters, but you can’t shirk at Unai Emery getting the ball rolling. Between the two of them, Arsenal has seen Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli pass through the prospect stage with flying colors and emerge as first-team stars.
But they aren’t alone. Eddie Nketiah has also gone through the prospect stages, the first time a young striker has emerged out of the Arsenal youth system in quite some time. For Nketiah though, he didn’t take the easy route.
The easy route would have been slamming home so many goals we couldn’t help but notice. That’s the Aubameyang route. Nketiah took the Lacazette route, which isn’t nearly as eye-popping, nor is it as easy to succeed or stamp himself on a position.
That’s exactly what he did though. With just four goals since his return from Leeds, there is nothing eye-popping about what Nketiah did numerically this year.
The only thing you need to know numerically is that he played 600 Premier League minutes, starting seven matches and subbing in five, in a set-up where Arteta was not shy about sitting players that weren’t working.
And nothing was particularly easy about that position either, as he had to forcibly keep Lacazette on the bench, as well as keeping Aubameyang pinned out on the left.
That’s pretty incredible. And again, it’s not like Arteta was doing him any favors, trying to make it work. As fans, we’d have seen that. We’d have been begging for him to step to the side and take on more of a supportive role.
Instead, fans—some of the most fickle fans in the world, mind you—were on board with this young man playing his heart out on the pitch. And he grew into one hell of a scrappy player too. He isn’t afraid to pick fights and stand up for his teammates.
Right under our noses, without any really sparkling, dazzling moments, Nketiah has grown into a viable first-team striker. Just another tremendous young man to build the future of the club around.
The big question is who’s next. It seems to be a race between Joe Willock and Emile Smith Rowe. My money is on both of them to be the winner.