Nketiah Is Ready to Make the Big Leap – And That Could Well Be to Ghana’s Gain
He has had to wait for his chance at Arsenal, following a blistering breakout in Arsene Wenger’s final season, but Eddie Nketiah is finally getting to make an impact for the Gunners where it matters most.
For quite a while, it appeared Nketiah was only ever going to be remembered at the Emirates as a League Cup freak show; some sort of Peter Pan, perhaps, the boy who never really grew up.
Wenger’s successors – Unai Emery, first, and now Mikel Arteta – were seemingly hesitant to trust him with Premier League minutes, leaving Nketiah starved and hungry… until now.
Following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s mid-season exit and the increasing bluntness of Alexandre Lacazette’s scoring edge, Nketiah has been handed the baton to lead the final lap of Arsenal’s race for a long-awaited return to the UEFA Champions League.
Four goals in as many league starts – two against Chelsea, two against Leeds United – have seen Nketiah leave quite an impression. And it’s not just the goals but, more impressively, also the brilliance of his overall play.
Nketiah doesn’t just lurk in the box or wait to be fed by Arsenal’s creatives. He hunts down balls – winning some that he has no right to – and generally makes life uncomfortable for defenders, with goals to show for those exertions (see three of the aforementioned four strikes).
Now if that’s not what you want in your centre-forward, you’re better off lining up without one.
Whether that discovery has come a bit too late for Arsenal and Arteta – Nketiah’s contract runs out this summer, and he doesn’t look willing to stick around beyond that – remains to be seen. There is another conversation to be had, though, sparked by Nketiah’s recent exploits, one about his international future.
He has only ever played for England up until this point, representing his land of birth at youth level and even breaking a long-standing record of Alan Shearer’s while at it; little wonder Nketiah has been touted as a potentially great forward for the Three Lions someday.
The fulfilment of those hopes, however, appears distant, with the likes of Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all weighing heavier as options upfront for manager Gareth Southgate. Nketiah would have to wait his turn, certainly until after the FIFA World Cup that comes off later this year.
Waiting, though, isn’t something the 22-year-old is ready to do – at least not where his club career is concerned.
No longer content with waiting in the wings for opportunities to prove he has come of age, Nketiah is eager to show that he’s come a long way from being that fresh-faced teen who announced his arrival so remarkably against Norwich City in October 2017.
He’s all grown-up and ready to play more regularly, even if that means flying out of the Arsenal nest for good. Where that quest takes him – if, indeed, it takes him anywhere – is shrouded in uncertainty, but clarity is being offered the young man elsewhere.
If Nketiah is as keen to make the big leap on the international scene as he is at club level, Ghana – the homeland of his parents – represents his best shot of doing so in the shortest possible time. The Black Stars are in need of an attacking spearhead, and the ongoing audition hasn’t yet yielded a winner.
Young Felix Afena-Gyan impressed in March’s World Cup games against Nigeria, but he – rather conspicuously – failed to score; the only goals thus far in his senior career, in fact, came over five months ago, for AS Roma, where he is yet to break into Jose Mourinho’s starting XI.
Nketiah has been around longer, is farther along in his development, and much closer to being the finished product.
So, is he at all enticed by the prospect of picking up Ghana’s call?
“It’s a possibility. I am open to both – playing for Ghana or England. Being from Ghana, you are obviously happy they have qualified for the World Cup. I know players like [Thomas] Partey so I am happy for them.”
“My club situation is the priority. At the moment, my full focus is on my club [Arsenal] and making sure I sort out things for next season,” Nketiah has said.
“Once that’s finished, then I can sit down and have that discussion with my family. It’s open to both [countries] and I am not closing the door to anything.”
Nketiah has already rebuffed Ghana’s advances in the past, but – with the country’s Qatar 2022 ticket booked and the striker’s rise to prominence – you can understand just how much stronger the mutual appeal might now be.
And if fresh reports are to be believed, Nketiah’s mind is already — well, almost already — made up, in Ghana’s favour.