Edu must finally banish Arsenal flop who’s earning as much as Gabriel

Mikel Arteta has an inner circle of players that he trusts more than most at Arsenal. That’s fair enough, right? Arguably so.

Every manager has their favourites and considering the Gunners are still in the thick of a title race, you can understand why in this particular scenario.

Bukayo Saka, the club’s top goalscorer on 20 for the campaign, is always going to start on the right. David Raya is always the man between the sticks. Gabriel and William Saliba are the preferred defensive pairing and Martin Odegaard will traditionally always be fielded next to Declan Rice.

Yet, where Arsenal have come unstuck over the last two seasons has been fatigue. That’s because of the lack of trust in those on the fringes.

Emile Smith Rowe for instance has only started twice in 2024. Reiss Nelson has started once and Fabio Vieira hasn’t been seen from the off at all.

Emile-Smith-Rowe-Arsenal

It’s a puzzling set of circumstances. Vieira, in particular, has his merits. A sublime creator, it beggars belief that the Portuguese hasn’t been given more of an opportunity.

He likely still holds a long-term future at the Emirates but the same cannot be said for Smith Rowe or another Hale End graduate in Eddie Nketiah.

What the future holds for Nketiah

Over the last two summers, there have been question marks surrounding the English striker. However, instead of departing, he signed a new deal back in 2022 and has stuck around ever since.

Whether that was the best decision, however, is up for debate. He has barely featured under Arteta in recent months and could be facing the exit door.

Nketiah-Elneny

The Athletic’s David Ornstein delivered an update on the 24-year-old’s future in a Q&A with subscribers. Asked whether Nketiah could leave, the reporter stated:

“Nketiah’s lack of playing time this season feels telling. It suggests he might not be as central a part of their plans as would have been imagined when he signed his new contract. It is also not ideal for someone who is at a stage of his career where he needs and wants to be playing regular football.

“There has long been interest in Nketiah from the Premier League (Crystal Palace, for example) and abroad, plus his homegrown status means a sale would represent pure profit from a PSR perspective for Arsenal. So I imagine there is a good chance he moves on, but I’m not aware of any concrete developments yet.”

Why Nketiah has to go

Truth be told, the answer is pretty simple here; he cannot be relied upon in front of goal.

Nketiah is a great character, there is no doubting that. He works hard and will always try his best to improve. The fact of the matter is that he’s not good enough to be featuring regularly for a title-challenging team.

That’s sad to say. After all, this has actually been a campaign where the forward has achieved a great deal. He scored his first Premier League hat-trick against Sheffield United last October and was handed his first England cap by Gareth Southgate.

Ernest Muçi and Eddie Nketiah

Yet, since that moment, it’s been all downhill for a man earning £100k-per-week. That’s a seismic salary for a player who hasn’t now started a game since New Year’s Eve, a 2-1 defeat to Fulham.

For context, that wage is the same as Gabriel, a man hailed as one of the finest defenders in the Premier League this season. It’s also more than Golden Glove winner David Raya and Arsenal’s second-top goal scorer, Leandro Trossard.

The Belgian sits on £90k-per-week having scored 16 times this season. It’s a lovely salary to take home but he shouldn’t be earning less than Nketiah, a figure who has scored just six goals in 37 games this term.

In fact, the academy graduate has been so off the boil that he’s actually failed to score a league goal since that trio of strikes against the Blades. In all competitions, he’s not found the net since scoring against PSV in the Champions League last December.

So what’s the problem? Well, the emergence of Kai Havertz as a genuine centre-forward option has not helped his cause.

Martin-Odegaard-Arsenal-Havertz

Nketiah had probably played more often than we thought following Gabriel Jesus’ troubled injury history but the German has been a revelation in that role, registering 13 goal involvements in 17 matches as a striker this season.

With reports suggesting Edu and Co could still sign a centre forward in the summer, all signs point towards an exit for Nketiah. Witnessing a successful academy product depart is always a sad day but he’s had his chances and must be moved on.

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