Two goals and one assist in three UEFA Youth League games thrust Edward Nketiah into the consciousness of Arsenal fans this season and his hattrick against Leicester on Monday night after I’d written this has really got people excited.
With blistering pace, the 17-year-old who was signed from Chelsea when he was just 14, has impressed everyone at Arsenal with his natural finishing ability for the u18s.
And he’s an Arsenal fan too, as he explained to Arsenal.com. “The day Arsenal showed they were interested in me was one of the happiest days I can remember.
“It wasn’t only because I’ve always been an Arsenal fan, but two days earlier I was told that I would be released by Chelsea and not given a scholarship for this season. I was so down, but then Arsenal found out I was available, contacted my family and invited me to train.”
Speaking recently to the Arsenal matchday programme, Nketiah was brimming with confidence, which is just as well because he believes that is essential for any striker.
“I thought my first season as a scholar went well for me. I developed as a player and scored 28 goals in all,” he said.
“Confidence is everything for a striker and that self-belief helps you get more goals.
“You feel you will score with every chance you get and what I had in my first year I’ve managed to carry on this season.
“I was proud to have scored so many goals as I was still young but settled in quickly, got into a rhythm and enjoyed my first year so much.
“I signed a professional contract on September 1 and that showed the club had faith in me and gave me even more of a boost.
“I achieved the contract through working hard and trying to keep improving, and as a professional that’s something that I’m determined to keep doing because it takes me a step closer to the first team and I know how high the standards are.
“I’ve trained quite a few times with the first team now and you see how everything is faster and sharper. Playing against strong defenders like Laurent Koscielny, you have to be concentrated and use good movement to get away from him.
“Francis Coquelin is also a player I’ve learnt a lot from because he drops in and helps out the defence and I’ve had to try and find ways to deal with that to get into spaces and create and take chances.
“I really enjoy training with the first team and the practice games especially.
“I’ve scored a couple past Petr Cech, which I was happy about, because he’s such a top class ‘keeper. I know it was a training game, but it still gives me the belief that if I can score past him, I can do the same against any goalkeeper.”
Nketiah has not been involved with the EFL Cup squad so far this season and the u18s play Aston Villa the same day as Arsenal face Southampton.
He also started (and scored a hattrick) for the u23s against Leicester last night so it would seem improbable that he will be anywhere near the squad for Wednesday night’s match.
Akpom’s injury might seem like it has opened the door but Akpom was not involved in the last round against Reading and Nketiah wasn’t given a call.
With Southampton sure to offer a sterner test, it would seem unlikely that he would get it this time around, but it surely can’t be long.