The 23-year-old recently agreed on a new five-year contract at the Emirates Stadium last week after initially appearing like he might leave on a free with his previous deal expiring. Instead, a purple patch at the end of the campaign that saw him score five goals in Arsenal’s final eight games saw him given a fresh contract and the famous number 14 shirt previously worn by club legend Thierry Henry.
The news was welcomed by Arsenal fans who were keen to see the young forward stay in north London and not move elsewhere, with Premier League rivals Crystal Palace among the clubs interested in taking Nketiah away from the Emirates. Had Mikel Arteta seen Nketiah leave it could have spelt trouble for the Gunners next season up front, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both departing in the same season as Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification to bitter rivals Spurs.
The club are now hoping to sign reinforcements to help Nketiah fire Arsenal into the top four next season, with Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus reportedly close to sealing a £45million move to the Emirates to help score the goals that could push them further up the table and closer to Europe’s premier club competition. But if Arteta and Edu fail to bring Jesus to the club, or any of their forward transfer targets for that matter, then former striker Merson says that Nketiah can absolutely not be relied upon to score the all-important goals needed for a top-four finish, brutally telling the Daily Star on Saturday that the youngster wouldn’t even be the first choice at newly-promoted Fulham.
“All Arsenal have got up front right now is Eddie Nketiah, who recently signed a new contract when it looked like he might leave,” he said. “And no disrespect to Nketiah but Mikel Arteta must realise he won’t get you into the top four. Absolutely no chance. That’s a fact.
“Nketiah can’t be spearheading your Champions League push. He’s not getting in ahead of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison at Everton and they almost got relegated. He’s not getting in at Fulham ahead of Aleksandar Mitrovic and they’ve only just been promoted. I’m not having a go at him but he’s not getting you top four.”
It seems virtually impossible that Arsenal’s transfer window would come to an end on September 1 and there be no further recruitments to the forward line, with Jesus’ arrival seemingly a completed deal with only the final details left to be ironed out. In that case, Merson need not fear that Nketiah will be left to fend for himself in Arsenal’s attack, though upon the announcement of his new deal, Arteta was clear that he was highly valued with the Gunners.
“I’m delighted Eddie is staying with us,” said the Spanish coach. “He represents what we are all about and all the values of the club. We are very happy that he has extended his contract and now we have to get to work and continue to develop the great talent and person that we have in him.”