Arsenal Watch: Eddie Nketiah III

20-year-old forward Eddie Nketiah made his first appearance for Leeds United today in the Carabao Cup as they faced League Two side Salford City. The Englishman delivered a good performance on his debut as Leeds won the game 3-0.

Going into the fixture, Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa deployed the young forward in his best position down the middle in attack. The Argentinian named his side in a 4-1-4-1 formation but in-game it looked more like a 3-3-4 formation to me. Nketiah was mostly supported by Jack Clarke and Helder Costa on the flanks but Ezgjan Alioski also played an important role with his attacking runs down the left.

In the first half, Nketiah mostly had a quiet game versus the Ammies. The home side kept a very nice shape that caused Leeds some problems in their build-up play. They opted to stretch the game wide through the likes of Allioski and Clarke but Salford did well defensively versus the visitors. Also, they created better goal-scoring opportunities in the final third that could’ve changed the game early on for Leeds.

As a result of this, Nketiah, unfortunately, didn’t receive much of the ball for most of the first half. Despite this, he still showed some bright sparks. Like I’ve mentioned many times in the past, what has always stood out to me most when it comes to Eddie Nketiah is his outstanding movement off the ball. The Englishman always knows when to get into the right position and he’s not afraid to drift wide to offer himself for the ball either.

However, just before half-time, the 20-year-old was able to score his first goal for the club. Following a nice pass from Jamie Shackleton to Helder Costa into space out wide, the winger was able to drive the ball into the penalty area where Nketiah tapped the ball in.

To put into perspective what I said previously about his promising movement, Nketiah played a crucial role in making the goal despite not playing a part in the build-up. The  Englishman did a tremendous job of drifting into the space between the two Salford defenders where he met the ball without any pressure and the freedom to slot home his first goal for Leeds.

In the second half, the 20-year-old’s goal proved to be a difference-maker since Salford’s overall performance dropped. Leeds’ build-up play improved because of this and it also allowed Nketiah to receive the ball more often. The young forward was able to link up better with his new teammates and was able to showcase himself more which included a nice run on a counter-attack that unfortunately ended abruptly after one of the forward’s touches was just too heavy.

Elsewhere, thanks to a deflected strike from the Englishman, Leeds were able to score their second goal of the game after 50 minutes following a corner that was fired home by defender Gaetano Berardi.

While he was only able to score one goal on his debut, Nketiah came close to grabbing a second on two separate occasions. In the 58th minute, the 20-year-old did a fantastic job of keeping up with Mateusz Klich on his counter-attacking run where the 29-year-old scored Leeds’ third goal of the game. Nketiah did well to get in a goalscoring position and offered himself to Klich in case he opted to pass rather than go for goal. Finally, in the 70th minute, Nketiah latched onto a poor pass from a Salford defender to Chris Neal but his chipped effort over the goalkeeper went over the goal.

Soon after, the Englishman was substituted off for Patrick Bamford to conclude his debut performance for Leeds.

Overall, I was impressed with Nketiah’s performance versus the Ammies. Given the circumstances, it can be difficult for a young forward to make a good first impression but the 20-year-old made the most of his opportunity. His movement was unsurprisingly fantastic, his link-up play looked good at times, and he also scored a crucial goal that should boost his confidence. Perhaps I’m being biased but the 20-year-old should start for Leeds on Saturday versus Wigan Athletic.

There’s still a long way for Eddie Nketiah to go but I’m very happy with the way he has developed over the years. He’s starting to show signs of a top striker and I hope he’s able to improve his overall game at Leeds under Sarri – particularly when it comes to holding the ball and taking players on.

My Rating – 7.5/10




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