Arsenal u23 manager Freddie Ljungberg thinks Eddie Nketiah is ready to play against BATE Borisov on Thursday if the young striker gets the call from Unai Emery.
A gap has opened up in the Arsenal squad after Alexandre Lacazette’s red card against BATE Borisov last Thursday. Whilst Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the team’s attacking sub in the first leg, the Gabonese international will have to start the second, providing an opportunity for Eddie Nketiah to come off the bench and prove his worth at senior level.
Freddie Ljungberg says he believes the 19-year-old is ready for a chance if Emery gives him one.
“If he gets the call, he’s ready to play without question,” Ljungberg told the Islington Gazette. “It’s totally up to the manager [but] I’ve always thought we have players [at U23 level] who are ready to do well but it’s up to the first team. All I can do is advise and try to get the players as ready as possible.”
Nketiah had an off day with his finishing in his last first-team start against Blackpool, but it’s worth bearing in mind the circumstances of that match. The striker hadn’t started a game at any level for over two months before the trip to The Seasiders, and he was lacking a bit of match sharpness as a result.
It’s a different story this time, as he’s coming off the back of a goal and assist against Tottenham Hotspur u23s last Friday:
There’s some media talk about Eddie Nketiah getting an opportunity in the squad facing BATE Borisov after Alexandre Lacazette’s red card.
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) February 19, 2019
Nketiah’s efforts that game made it four goal-contributions in three matches since Blackpool. Ljungberg thinks that kind of regular playing time is crucial for the young striker.
“It’s important for Eddie to play games. As a striker, you can’t just train because you want to feel that feeling to get yourself in the right place at the right time to score.
“That’s why I think it was important for Eddie to play [for the U23s] so he’s ready when he gets a chance in the first-team. He needs games, as a striker, he always needs to be playing.”
Hopefully, he’s now ready to have an impact and help turn around the first team’s first-leg deficit on Thursday.