Calls for Eddie Nketiah to be given a chance in the Premier League are premature.
A young striker coming through the ranks is one of the most exciting things about football, but Arsenal fans would do well to curb their excitement over Eddie Nketiah.
The 18-year-old made a big impact when he came off the bench against Norwich. With Arsenal in desperate need of goals, he took just 15 seconds to latch onto a corner and level the score. In extra-time, he found space in the box on another corner, and headed his team into the lead. Caught up in the euphoria of the moment – what was a rare moment of excitement in an incredibly drab performance – the home crowd devised a chant for him.
Now “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” can be heard whenever he’s in the squad.
Since then, Nketiah got 30 minutes in the 0-0 draw against Red Star Belgrade, and bagged four goals against the Faroe Islands for the England u19s.
There are now calls for Nketiah to get more first team involvement; to bin the tired, old options and inject some youth and promise back into the Arsenal squad.
Why waste time with Theo Walcott when we could have Nketiah on the bench instead?
Fans should remember, though, that there have been plenty of cautionary tales in the past.
Carlos Vela scored a hat-trick on his Arsenal debut and was prolific throughout that League Cup campaign.
Jay Simpson is another who came from the club’s academy and scored in the League Cup.
Vela struggled to settle in England and went on to establish himself in Spain with Real Sociedad. Simpson, meanwhile, forged a decent career in England’s lower leagues.
You can go back further and find more names of talented strikers who made excellent first impressions, but faded away.
Anyone remember Arturo Lupoli or Jeremy Aliadiere?
Nketiah may well be an excellent talent but the amount of hype that’s being generated around him can be a hindrance.
Arsene Wenger is more likely to shield him from it by restricting his opportunities, rather than throw him in at the deep end. All it would take would be a handful of poor performances for fans to turn on the player, no matter his age.
You’d have to wonder if its worth playing a youngster in such a volatile and tense atmosphere and whether it’d be good for him or not.
It’s also important to recognise that Arsenal are not wanting for quality up front.
Alexandre Lacazette is a high-class forward, while Olivier Giroud has scored a 100 goals for the club. Unless those two completely flop this season, there shouldn’t be any need to rely on a teenage striker.
By all means, Nketiah should be involved with the first team if he has something about him. The cups are a good start for any young players as they’re pressure free and usually against a lower standard of opposition.
If a spot on the Premier League bench opens up, then it’d be worth selecting him and giving him minutes where possible.
However, every game is a battle for Arsenal these days, and situations where they can afford to bring a young player when the result is secure are becoming rarer and rarer.
For Nketiah, and for the other youngsters being given opportunities, this season should be all about getting used to life in the first team and enjoying the chances that come their way.
Next season, when they’re all a little older and wiser, they should be integrated more into the first team where possible.
Fans will need to be patient until then.