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Arsenal - Football: Is Nketiah enough for Arsenal?

18 June 2022 12:54:20 EST
Mikel Arteta has a busy summer ahead

Arsenal fans will have been cheered by Saturday's news that striker Eddie Nketiah has signed a new long-term contract at the club.

The 23-year-old, who originally joined the Gunners when he was 14, looked set to leave on a free transfer but has now penned terms on a fresh deal, although the club are yet to reveal its length.

Nketiah came into his own towards the back end of the 2021/22 campaign and recent departures leave him as arguably the club's sole out-and-out frontman.

Coach Mikel Arteta has described the news as something that "represents the values of the club", adding that it is now his responsibility to "continue to develop the great talent and person" that the striker is.

However, is he ready to do it alone? Or do Arsenal need more if they are to qualify for the top four, currently available at 1.66.

An apparent u-turn

It previously looked as if Nketiah would be heading for the Emirates exit, with a lack of opportunities believed to have left him frustrated and seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Fellow Premier League clubs Leeds, with whom he enjoyed a decent loan spell in 2019/20, Brighton and West Ham were linked with his signature and Arteta admitted he was struggling to convince the Lewisham-born forward to stay.

So what changed? Well, critics will say that the situation, and its result, were borne of Arsenal's sometimes questionable contract policy.

Nketiah wasn't the only player to find himself soon to be out of contract, with fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette also in that boat.

The Frenchman recently confirmed he will return to Lyon when his deal expires on 30th June after a mixed season that saw him net just four times in 30 Premier League appearances.

After impressing in the cup competitions, his younger colleague managed five league goals, but crucially, they all came in his team's final eight games. Arteta looked to have put his faith in the former England under-21 man and that has been rewarded by Saturday's news.

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Fresh-faced look to Gunners' squad

The deal also emphasises Arsenal's focus on youth going forward. At 31, Lacazette may no longer have fit the board's profile. The same can also possibly be said for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Aubamyeang turned 33 on Saturday and age and other issues made it seem like the club were relieved to see him join Barcelona during the winter window.

After stumbling to fifth last season, The Gunners' board are clearly keen to build their team around players 25 or younger.

Nketiah's fellow academy graduates Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe both comfortably fit into that bracket, as do goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, defenders Ben White, Takahiro Tomiyaso and Gabriel Magalhaes, playmaker Martin Odegaard and fellow forward Gabriel Martinelli.

It could be argued that Arsenal's lack of experience cost them in 2021/22 - do they need to get some wiser heads in to guide their youngsters through? Potentially, otherwise, another top-six finish at 1.16 could be as good as it gets.

Will they go for Gabriel?

Alongside Martinelli, another Brazilian called Gabriel could be at the Emirates next season. Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus is set to enter the final year of his contract and the Citizens are primed to cash in.

The 25-year-old scored eight times as City won the league, three short of Saka's Gunners' high of 11. However, he would be a stellar addition if Arsenal could see off reported competition from amongst others, bitter rivals Tottenham.

Jesus is 21.00 to be the 2022/23 Premier League top goalscorer, somewhat better off than 101.00 Nketiah.

While the Gunners' decision to give Nketiah the club's iconic number 14 shirt, most famously worn by Thierry Henry, is a symbol of the esteem he is held in, is it telling they didn't look to make him the main man by handing him Lacazette's soon-to-be-old number nine jersey? Interestingly, that is also the digit Jesus sports at City.

Arteta's men get their campaign underway at Crystal Palace on 5th August, a game they are 1.80 to win. Nketiah is sure to be involved but will he be the first choice? Or will it be another season of waiting for his chance?

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