Discussion over Eddie Nketiah’s future at Leeds United has been rife in recent months and that trend continued on Boxing Day both on and off the field.
Phil Hay, The Athletic’s Leeds correspondent, published a report on the morning of the game which suggested Nketiah could be set to return to Arsenal in January.
According to the report, sources close to The Athletic claim the Gunners are likely to recall him when the window reopens for business next month.
That the 19-year-old prodigy has never started a Championship game for the Whites is clearly a contributing factor to suggestions of a return to north London, but his latest performance suggests Marcelo Bielsa may have neglected a huge asset.
The decision to substitute Patrick Bamford against Preston was met with audible boos from the home supporters, but any lingering discontent was quickly forgotten.
Nketiah injected fresh life into the attack, oscillating from left to right in the final third in a bid to unsettle the opposition. It was not always aesthetically pleasing but it was highly effective from a substitute who out-performed the man he replaced.
The England youth international had 17 touches in his 27 minutes on the field, which was just one less than Bamford during 63, completed two dribbles, won a free-kick, had a shot on target and won an aerial duel, per Whoscored.
By comparison, Bamford failed to complete a single dribble, didn’t record a shot on target or an aerial duel.
Those are damning statistics for a striker who cost £10m and has established himself as a strong favourite under Bielsa.
Whether Nketiah’s future rests in the hands of Leeds or the decision-makers at Arsenal remains to be seen, but the latest evidence suggests the promotion-chasing outfit are going to lose a player with genuine game-changing flair next month.
Reports coming from Hay are ominous under the circumstances.
If supporters weren’t already feeling disappointed by the prospect of Nketiah’s exit then his latest performance is likely to have changed that feeling.
Leeds fans might just have to pray that Arsenal’s exciting teenager doesn’t move to a fellow promotion rival.
In other news, some Leeds fans were left fuming by one player’s omission from the matchday squad vs Preston…