When it was announced Folarin Balogun had signed a new long-term deal with Arsenal back in April, it seemed as though Eddie Nketiah’s days at the Emirates Stadium were numbered. However, as a shock to many, Nketiah has now been offered a new deal at the club.
With Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ahead of the pair in the current pecking order and particularly with the absence of European football next season, how would Mikel Arteta be able to afford them both enough game-time to continue their development?
After playing regularly at the start of the 2020/21 campaign, Nketiah found himself struggling for minutes after the turn of the year and with his current deal due to expire next summer it would have made sense to sell the striker.
From the club’s perspective, any funds that can be added to what’s expected to be an underwhelming transfer budget would be most welcome and from the player’s point of view – and he simply needs to be playing more football.
Since coming through the ranks at Arsenal, Nketiah has managed 65 appearances for the first-team, contributing 13 goals but while there have been flashes, in truth, he’s never performed consistently enough to convince that he can be the long-term replacement of either Lacazette or Aubameyang.
So what’s the point in signing him up? Extending the forward’s contract will help increase his sell-on value and perhaps it’s being done with a view to sending him out on loan, therefore, delaying the point at which Arteta will have to make a definitive decision on his Gunners future.
If he is to go out on loan and perform anywhere near as well as Joe Willock did during his time at Newcastle, Arsenal will find themselves in a stronger position with either the option to keep hold of the striker or cash in on him for a greater sum.
When you think about it like that, it isn’t the craziest idea – but it comes as a surprise nonetheless. There’s a real need for a clear out at the north London club, even after having terminated the contracts of Mesut Ozil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi earlier this year.
Being a bit-part player the way he has been in recent months seemingly made Nketiah one of the prime candidates to be sold but the decision to offer him an extension is with business in mind and nothing more.
The flashes of competence mentioned previously aren’t enough to warrant keeping hold of the player and while they stand to sell him for a higher value if the club’s plan comes to fruition there is certainly an element of risk to it.
If Arsenal wish to compete at the highest level, they’ll need to do better than Eddie Nketiah, with two strikers at a much higher level already in front of him, even a successful loan spell isn’t going to change that.