Eddie Nketiah: It’s Only Just The Beginning.

On Wednesday Eddie Nketiah came off the bench for England U21 to net a goal in a 3-3 draw with Andorra. The result itself was a bit of a shock given Andorra are rock bottom of the Euro 2021 qualifying group table though on closer look it seems a few more important players were rested for this fixture with Eddie being one of them. After coming on he bagged what looked to be the winner only for England to concede again and finish with scores level.

The significant take away from Eddie’s scoring feat was the fact that he netted his 13th goal for England u21’s which put him joint level as the record scorer for England at that level. A goal scoring record that is shared with Alan Shearer and Francis Jeffers. A feat that has to be applauded but at the same time reality checked as it is at an u21 standard. However the two players he shares the record with couldn’t provide more evidence of absolute polar opposites in terms of senior England careers that Eddie could have.

Alan Shearer went on to be one of the greatest most prolific goal scorers in England History whilst Francis Jeffers managed to make only one senior appearance for England (all be it scoring and boasting a 100% record).

You have to say the ball is in Eddie’s court in terms of how he shapes his future. He has certainly put in the hard work up to this stage to make the most of his opportunities.

He has the belief of his manager which has earned him starts in the premiership for Arsenal; he’s scoring freely for England U21 and likely to be in Gareth Southgate’s thoughts. It’s the kind of path any aspiring young striker would love to be following and yet when you ask fans for their view on Eddie you get mixed responses. 

There’s a large contingent of people who do not believe Eddie to be good enough for Arsenal and would sooner have him replaced with a more favourable experienced striker. In this day and age where fans expect the finished article instantly (particularly at larger clubs) there’s certainly less patience to see through the development of young players even more so strikers if the output isn’t that of the finished article.

Eddie Nketiah is still learning his craft and the capacity for his development and improvement is massive. Can he achieve it whilst at Arsenal?  As echoed earlier the ball is in his court and he will have to achieve this while constantly having questions thrown at him about his abilities.

Now on one hand I can understand where some of the fans are coming from. If you were to describe the type of player Eddie Nketiah is in a few short words then Fox in the box is a common and rather accurate descriptor used for the young striker. He is a striker that often finds himself on the end of balls played into the box; using his pace to nip in ahead of the defender and finish with aplomb.

When asked to expand on his other strengths that is where many would fall short on providing an answer to respond with. When describing the template for a modern day striker the general consensus is an all-rounder. A player with pace and power, who can finish, that has the ability to drop deep and bring others into play, a tireless runner  who can trouble defenders and a player who can assist his teammates. Seems a lot really for the ultimate striker but nowadays when you find a striker that exhibits one or two of those attributes the criticism will always be the highlighting of the attributes they don’t have from that list. It’s fair to say Eddie doesn’t tick all those boxes yet and until he does he won’t escape the criticism. When you think of his loan to Leeds united, depending on what side of the fence you sit his loan was a success or failure.  He rarely started games but his impact from the bench was appreciated from Leeds with some important goals. Patrick Bamford was the preferred starter and yet he was hardly getting on score sheet. Why was he being played ahead of the Arsenal starlet who was getting more goals per minute in comparison?

The clear answer was what Bamford brought to the overall play of the Leeds team. If you watched Leeds play he was key to the success of their system. His link up play brought others into attack and if you avoid the goals to games stats and observed the gameplay it was easier to appreciate what Bamford contributed. Saying that Bamford’s finishing leaves a lot to be desired and is what separates him from being a good striker and an elite one. Eddie was a far better finisher but the other aspects to his game were still to be worked on, this resulted in his super sub role for the club.

Sending Eddie out on loan was a chance for him to get the minutes and improve and enhance the aspects of his game he needed to work on. With him not getting that at Leeds it made up the mind of Mikel Arteta to cut his loan short return to Arsenal and give him more game time at a higher standard.

Eddie is only 21 and still developing under Arteta, he is improving and the important thing is not to dismiss what he can become because of what he shows now. Players need time and you only need to look at Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring for England against Wales on his England debut to see how a young player can come to fruition. Everton fans would be telling lies if they didn’t admit that at times they questioned the abilities of the youngster and whether he was good enough to be the main Everton striker. A player who served his apprenticeship with loans to lower league clubs and representing the England youth teams didn’t set the world alight with his scoring record in his first couple seasons with the Toffees.

 The early promise plateaued a bit but under Carlo Ancelotti he has taken his game to the next level and is now first name on the team sheet and seen as one of the top strikers in the premiership. Patience and belief in his ability is what has gotten him to where he is now, he also is still developing and learning and getting better. Anyone who dismisses Nketiah just needs to take a look over at Goodison Park.

It reached a point where many fans were calling for Nketiah to be ditched in order to make space for young striker Folarin Balogun. A top talent in our youth set up no doubt but to see comments claiming Balogun to be a better player without having kicked a single ball in 1st team senior football is quite ludicrous. Balogun could well go on to be an even better player than Eddie but there’s a level of apprenticeship that needs to be completed before strolling straight into the Arsenal 1st team. Not everyone makes the transition into first team football from a prolific youth career. We mustn’t forget Nketiah was also prolific in youth, made scoring appearances early into his 1st team career, completed a loan out gained more experience and has returned and contributed.

Nketiah is not the finished article but Nketiah is not finished either. His story is only in the first few pages. It’s just a case of whether the end of his story is more likened to Alan Shearers than Francis Jeffers?

Enjoy you day people.

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I am proud to be a writer for.

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