Eddie Nketiah: Mismanaged or Not Up to Standard?
A few years ago, Eddie Nketiah was regarded as one of English football’s most promising players. However, the 22-year-old has failed to live up to his potential in recent seasons, and now Arsenal are reportedly open to letting the London-born attacker leave the club. Nketiah has spent the last six years with the Gunners, but a combination of inconsistent displays and limited minutes has hindered his development. With that, let’s consider whether Nketiah is the victim of poor management or if he’s not up to the challenge of regular top-flight football.
Overshadowed by Other Up-and-Coming Players
Several seasons ago, Nketiah was the prized asset breaking through the Arsenal academy. Since then, perceptions have changed, with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe establishing themselves as the Gunners’ brightest talents. Saka, in particular, is one of the first names on the teamsheet at the Emirates, and his fine form earned him a spot in England’s final 26-man European Championship squad. The 19-year-old starred as England beat the Czech Republic to reach the knockout stage, and Gareth Southgate’s team were 11/2 in Euro 2020 odds to replace Portugal as the European champions on June 25th.
It speaks volumes about Saka and Smith Rowe’s rise to the Arsenal first team that they both featured heavily throughout 2020-21. The versatile 19-year-old attacker appeared in 32 games, of which he started 30. By comparison, Smith Rowe started in 18 Premier League matches while also coming off the bench in a further two fixtures. Nketiah, however, didn’t receive the same opportunities. The 22-year-old featured from the off in just four matches, in addition to coming on as a substitute on 13 occasions. In Mikel Arteta’s defence, Nketiah didn’t do enough to establish himself as a first-team starter, failing to score in any of his four Premier League starts.
Should the Gunners be Inviting Offers?
With Arteta at the helm, Arsenal are in transition, and the squad needs several new additions over the coming transfer windows. To fund signings, the Gunners will need to sell some of their existing assets, and reports suggest that Nketiah could be on his way out of the Emirates. TEAMtalk state that Arsenal will listen to offers for the 22-year-old, who only has 12 months left on his current contract. With the London-born striker’s deal coming to an end, it makes sense for the Gunners to part ways with Nketiah despite his promising talent.
From the outside, Nketiah’s inability to develop at Arsenal is the culmination of numerous factors. Few can doubt that the attacker didn’t perform to the best of his abilities when given opportunities, but he played in a side that lacked creativity. As such, clear-cut chances were few and far between, making the 22-year-old a victim of the Gunners’ style and lack of identity.
A Missed Opportunity
Despite his below-par numbers, Nketiah isn’t a bad player. That said, he may never be of the standard that Arsenal require. Because of that, a clean break may be the best option for all parties, but it’s not unfair to suggest that the 22-year-old was a victim of mismanagement. Nketiah needed regular game time, and if he wasn’t going to get that at the Emirates, Arteta should have sanctioned a loan move in 2020-21. Now, it remains to be seen whether he can flourish elsewhere.