Arsenal’s bid to secure a top-four berth took a real dent on Thursday evening, as Mikel Arteta’s side succumbed to a brutal 3-0 North London Derby defeat following an error-strewn display at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Heading into the mammoth midweek encounter, the Gunners knew that a win would secure a much-coveted return to Champions League football for the first time since 2017, although a frantic first half saw Harry Kane net twice – including once from the spot – before partner-in-crime Heung-min Son added a third just after the interval to rub further salt in the wounds and fire the hosts back into contention for fourth spot.
That dismal outing for the away side was in part caused by a headline-grabbing display – for all the wrong reasons – from centre-back Rob Holding, with the Englishman seeing red inside 33 mins following two rash and needless bookable offences, while fellow defender Cedric Soares was also culpable for his clumsy foul that led to the home side’s early spot-kick.
However, one man who was also far from at his best on the night was in-form striker Eddie Nketiah, the 22-year-old failing to build on his recent brace against Leeds United after putting in a frankly anonymous display in attack.
While inhibited by his teammate’s early dismissal, which largely left the youngster chasing shadows in the forward line, the £9m-rated man did little to impress regardless, notably producing an almost laughable dive in the opening exchanges in an attempt to win a penalty, while he also failed to track the run of compatriot Kane at the back post as Antonio Conte’s men grabbed a second.
The statistics also make for grim reading for the out-of-contract man, as he made just 19 touches in his 73-minute outing – fewer than his own ‘keeper, Aaron Ramsdale (42) – while he also made just eight passes in the match, losing possession on seven occasions.
Having also won just two of his nine total duels and failed to complete any of his three attempted dribbles, the academy graduate unsurprisingly received just a 6.3 match rating, as per SofaScore – the joint-third worst in the visitors’ starting outfield players.
He also received just a 5/10 match rating from the Independent’s Jack Rathborn in his post-match player ratings, writing of the £17k-per-week star’s display that: “Appeared to dive in the first minute, carved out an opening before the break and forced Lloris into a smart stop. Kept working hard despite being isolated.”
As pointed out above, the former England U21 international continued to try and put himself about even with Spurs having a man advantage, although that being said there was a stark difference in quality between the opposing centre-forwards with that man Kane looking razor-sharp, as ever, for the Lilywhites, while the younger man floundered.
In truth, it must be remembered that despite his recent strong form, Nketiah has still actually only made six Premier League starts this season, with it yet to be shown that he is a figure to be relied upon on a consistent basis.
As for Arteta’s men in general, they have now handed back hope to their rivals with their lead now cut to just a point with two games left to play, ensuring there is still plenty of work to be done over the remaining week or so.