Eddie Nketiah’s hat-trick against Sheffield United marks a significant milestone in his development under Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.
With each goal displaying a different layer to his game, the young striker is proving his critics wrong and presenting Arteta with a pleasant selection dilemma.
Nketiah’s career started with a reputation for being lethal within the six-yard box. Statistics indicated that the average distance of his goals was roughly three yards. Earlier in his career, attempts from further out were rare and often met with amusement from fans and commentators alike.
There has long been discussion surrounding Nketiah‘s potential as a regular goalscorer for Arsenal. However, there is consensus that given the right circumstances and level of play, Nketiah is more than capable of being a consistent contributor on the scoreboard.
Mikel Arteta, although still in the early stages of his coaching career, has already received praise for his influence on players. Raheem Sterling is often cited as a player who blossomed under Arteta’s tutelage the most.
The manager’s influence appears to be similarly transformative for Nketiah. The striker has also benefitted from the presence of Gabriel Jesus at the club, particularly in training sessions.
In Nketiah, it seems he has worked his magic once again, although there is no doubt that the Hale End graduate has also benefited from playing, training and being around Gabriel Jesus since his arrival at the club.
When Jesus reached for his hamstring against Sevilla in the Champions League, we knew it meant two things. First, that the Brazilian was going to be sidelined again, adding to the 22 games he has already missed since arriving from City in 2022.
Second, we knew that Eddie Nketiah would be starting up front.
Against Sheffield United, Nketiah went a long way to shutting up many of his critics, and when you look at his three goals, you see that this Nketiah is not the one who signed a new contract last summer when it looked like he would leave the club.
This is a new and improved version.
Nketiah’s first two goals were indeed from close range, but both were very different than the tap-ins he made look so easy throughout his youth career.
His second was more the instinctive type we’ve come to expect from Nketiah but it was not an easy chance, although he made it look that way. His awareness and anticipation played as much a part as his ability to finish.
The third was, of course, the pick of the bunch and a goal borne of the confidence from the first two. Receive, turn, shoot. He almost didn’t have to look where the ball went, so sure was the strike.
We also know he passed up the chance to write his name in the Arsenal record books alongside Thierry Henry and Andrei Arshavin as the only players to score four for the Gunners in a Premier League game. Team first, personal glory second.
Tougher tests await, not least Newcastle next week, but on the evidence of this season, this Eddie Nketiah will be relishing the opportunity to add to his tally and really give Mikel Arteta a problem when Jesus finally returns.