Arsenal are making a poor decision by keeping hold of Eddie Nketiah, amid reported transfer interest from West Ham.
The England U21 international has had a mixed start to the season thus far, breaking Alan Shearer’s goal-scoring record for the Young Lions, but struggling to replicate that form at club level with Mikel Arteta’s side – he’s managed just one goal in 12 Premier League appearances.
Reports in recent days have suggested the Gunners’ Premier League rivals West Ham are eyeing him as a potential replacement for Sebastien Haller, but The Athletic have now revealed that the north Londoners are adamant that they will not be selling him.
It’s claimed that Arsenal seem determined to keep him until at least the summer, with Arteta himself very recently responding with a definitive “no” when asked about whether he would consider allowing the young striker to leave in this January transfer window.
When Nketiah broke onto the scene at the Emirates with that iconic brace against Norwich City in the Carabao Cup, it seemed like Arsenal had unearthed yet another quality young striker who might be able to lead the line for the years to come.
Instead, the 21-year-old hasn’t quite progressed as much as he, or the club, would perhaps have wanted. He is still not yet an established part of the first-team, and sometimes, he is not even making it off the bench, as has been the case for the past three Premier League games that the Gunners have won.
What makes Nketiah’s situation even more important is the future of another one of Arsenal’s rising stars, Folarin Balogun. The teenager’s contract is set to expire come the end of the season, with reports recently even indicating he was close to joining a foreign team on a pre-contract deal as he wants more regular game time.
The question really then becomes ‘who do the Gunners really feel will be the better player going forward?’
Per Mertesacker, the club’s academy manager, has surely seen first-hand what both Nketiah and Balogun can bring to the table, whilst the latter has taken his brief opportunities this season with aplomb, scoring two goals and providing one assist in four Europa League games.
It’s highly unlikely the Gunners will be able to convince both of the players that their future lay at the Emirates, given they both play in the same position. But with Balogun almost two years younger, and the £18m-rated Nketiah still not truly laying a marker down after 57 first-team games, Arteta must surely reconsider his stance on the latter’s future, thus paving a way for Balogun to get more game time, which could then see him stay at the club.
As a young English striker, Nketiah could command a hefty price in the modern transfer market, and given the financial situation facings clubs around the world and the fact that the Gunners need to start pulling in big fees themselves, selling the 21-year-old might see sum more funds given to Arteta.
Arsenal forked out a hefty sum to bring Thomas Partey to the club in the summer, and it would make sense if the owners will be expecting the Gunners to balance the books with some sales before investing any more money this month. Selling Nketiah would go a long way to doing exactly that, and yet Arteta is making a rather hasty call by seemingly deciding to keep him and by proxy, pushing Balogun further towards the exit door.