On Friday night, England’s ruthless Under-21 side continued their unbeaten qualifying campaign for next years European Championships with a comprehensive 0-6 victory against Kosovo, which saw Arsenal youngster – Eddie Nketiah – captain the side and put the game out of sight with a 10-minute hat-trick early in the second half. The array of talent on show in our Under-21 side is clear to see, with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell all starting in this fixture, leaving Aidy Boothroyd with the difficult decision to leave out players with the quality to be starting for many other nations at this level such as Reiss Nelson, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Borussia Dortmund’s new £27 million signing Jude Bellingham.
All of these players have experience playing at the top level, albeit not always regularly, Eddie Nketiah is the one who has been shown untold amounts of faith by Aidy (hence why he has been made captain) and consistently catches the eye when in an England shirt. Undoubtedly, Eddie is far from the finished article, but his reputation in the England Youth ranks couldn’t be in higher regard due to way he’s been able to hone an effective attacking skillset at the age of 21, especially in and around the penalty area causing him to be a tough opponent for defenders at this level.
Even at his age, he seems to have developed the knack of being in the right place at the right time, utilizing his quick acceleration to lose his marker – an aspect of his game which evident against Kosovo as he drifted to the back post for the simplest of finishes to put England 0-1 up. Only minutes later, his ghost-like movement was highlighted again as he managed to peel off his marker just outside the six-yard box, receiving the ball on the back foot and finishing into the bottom corner almost in one motion to get his second of the day. To round off his faultless performance, the promising striker added another one from the penalty spot, dispatching it with confidence into the corner to complete the perfect hat-trick.
Goal Scoring record for England across all age groups:
The 21-year old’s goal scoring record for England across all age groups is admirable, as he is able to put up some incredible numbers, proving his consistency and natural prowess in front of goal – attributes which have been clear Nketiah provides even from his early days in Arsenal’s academy. No matter the opposition at Youth International level, the Englishman always seems to come up with the goods, as his deadly instincts in the area make him the epitome of a goal poacher.
England U18: 2 games – 4 goals
England U19: 10 games – 9 goals
England U20: 9 games – 6 goals
England U21: 10 games – 12 goals and 2 assists
Overall record: 31 games – 31 goals and 2 assists
As you can see from his record above, Eddie is producing elite numbers at this level suggesting that he is one of the most clinical strikers England have in their youth set-up, providing 33 goals and assists in 31 matches. The manner in which he has displayed his ability to score goals in multiple different England teams, all with different managers and styles to accommodate for shows his versatility to be able to adapt and become a key member of any system he is put into. As attributes go, this is definitely an important one to have in the modern-day, as all the top strikers in the world are able to contribute goals regardless of the philosophy the manager wants his side to play with.
Despite this, many question marks have been thrown towards the youngster ahead of his involvement with Arsenal’s first team next season, with many eluding to the idea that Eddie isn’t ready to be playing as many minutes as he was in Arteta’s side towards the back end of the last campaign. Not only this, but some fans believe the youngster is unable to fulfill the role that Alexandre Lacazette plays for the Gunners, as Eddie’s link and hold-up play is far from the strongest aspects of his game at the present moment. Without improving these areas, the 21-year could see his game-time limited under our new head coach, as although I believe Arteta rates him as a goal-scorer our current system requires someone to drop deep in order to allow the wingers to run beyond them, linking the midfield to the attack through strong hold-up play.
It could be argued that this is one of the major factors as to why Eddie flourishes in the England set-up, as his role at striker is perhaps less focused on bringing other players into the game and more revolved around getting crosses into the box for him to attack, something that he already excels in. However, if given the time it wouldn’t be out of the question for Arteta to refine this side of him, as he is still a young player who appears to be a fast learner, therefore in the future I see no reason as to why he couldn’t be moulded into a player of this profile.
Does Eddie provide adequate competition for Lacazette?
Considering Lacazette’s upturn in form towards the end of last season, it would be fair to assume that the Frenchman will be our starting striker with Eddie being his deputy to begin with, providing our number nine doesn’t leave the club of course. Personally, I agree to a certain extent that Eddie isn’t ready to be playing week in week out for a club the size of Arsenal, mainly due to the fact that his game can be one dimensional at times. Looking back at some of the fixtures towards the end of last season, Eddie sometimes struggled to make an impact during games if he was unable to find the back of the net, as his size and stature limited the amount of hold-up play he could get involved with, often giving the impression that he didn’t contribute enough to the side.
Whereas Lacazette has more dimensions to his game as he doesn’t always have to score to be a vital asset to the team, due to his capacity to raise the levels of his teammates through creating chances or keeping the side ticking with excellent link-up play. This is supported by the difference in passes and touches in the box between Lacazette and Nketiah, as the Frenchman averages 1.26 passes and 6.97 touches compared to the Englishman’s 0.51 and 5.32. Although he played a total of 4,528 minutes less than Lacazette last season, this is without a doubt a facet which needs to be improved if he is to become a starter under Arteta, as it seems to be a non-negotiable for a striker in his preferred system.
On the other hand, there are areas of Eddie’s game that could easily become more accomplished than Lacazette’s in the future, as I feel that he is more of a natural finisher with better movement in and around the area. For attacking players, this is such an important quality to have and makes the most difficult part of football, scoring goals, look easy. The way Eddie has honed this skill and evolved his style around it will mean that he will always score goals throughout his career, as it will allow himself to have more time and space to pick his spot in goal scoring opportunities. This is the main difference between these two, as Lacazette doesn’t seem to have that drive that all the elite strikers have to hit the box at every chance they have with the hope of getting on the score-sheet, whereas Nketiah seems to thrive in situations like this.
Would he benefit from a loan deal?
Over the past week, speculation has been building surrounding Nketiah’s possible loan move to fellow Premier League side, Newcastle United. Any type of deal would hinge on Arsenal bringing in another striker, due to the injury to Gabriel Martinelli and the fact that Arteta is reluctant to play Aubameyang through the middle, however if circumstances were different, it would be very productive for both parties.
Unless there is a major injury to Lacazette next season, his game time outside of the Europa League will be limited and at his age, it is vital that he is playing consistently in a league that will not only challenge him from a technical point of view but more importantly in a physical sense as well. Newcastle would be able to provide a solution to this, giving him the opportunity to display his worth across a full 38 game campaign, while building his experience playing at the top level before coming back to Arsenal a more complete player. At the age of 21, Nketiah is far from being old, however a player with his potential should have played more than 56 times in his senior career and with a lot of them appearances coming off the bench, there will come a time where he has to look elsewhere for game time.
In order to make the transition to challenge for a starting spot at Arsenal, this will be a vital period for his development to show whether he is capable of making the big step up to a club with ambitions of being in the Champions League. In my opinion, this would be the best choice for his career in the long run, as it would give him invaluable knowledge of the demands to play consistently for a side in the top division while providing him with the chance to become a more well-rounded striker.
Any feedback you have would be much appreciated and let me know in the comments whether you think Nketiah should go out on loan for the 2020/21 season.
I’m a 20 year-old Arsenal fanatic and aspiring Sports Journalist, who will be studying how to write about the Beautiful Game at Solent University from September in an attempt to make my dream into a reality.
Since the age of 8 I have played academy football, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out – therefore I decided to pursue the next best career for me.
I am aiming to write honest and interesting articles about the club I love, and to share my opinion (one from the younger generation of Arsenal supporters) with as many other fans as possible!