19-year-old forward Eddie Nketiah made his fifth appearance for Arsenal today as the Gunners faced Blackpool in the third round of the FA Cup. The Englishman has featured regularly in senior training for the Gunners and was awarded his third senior appearance for the club, this season, in his preferred position as a striker.
Going into the game, Arsenal manager Unai Emery opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation as opposed to the 3-4-2-1 system that was utilised midweek in the 4-1 victory versus Fulham in the Premier League. In regards to the Gunners’ attack, Aaron Ramsey was positioned in the traditional “number 10” role and was accompanied by Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the flanks. As previously mentioned, Nketiah was positioned at the very front of the team in attack.
In the first half, Nketiah struggled, to an extent, versus the Seasiders. His off the ball movement, especially in the final third, was exceptional and he was getting in all of the right positions. However, there were too many occasions in the game in which his finishing was way off and inaccurate and it clearly seems like it’s affecting his confidence.
In the opening ten minutes of the game, the young forward had already missed two pretty good chances at goal, missing the target on both occasions. Both of the chances were created by Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the right of him. Following on from this, Nketiah didn’t have much of an impact on the game, and others like Joe Willock and Iwobi performed superbly.
However, the young forward was seemingly able to get an assist, although nothing has been confirmed. From the replays, it looks like he was able to get a slight deflection on the ball from Carl Jenkinson’s cross which led to Willock’s second goal of the game.
Just before the whistle was blown to conclude the first half, Nketiah had yet another chance to get his name on the scoresheet. His control of the ball was very good but he wasn’t able to get enough on his shot to beat the goalkeeper, Mark Howard, who saved his third great chance of the evening.
In the second half, Nketiah again didn’t get a lot of time on the ball and also wasn’t able to get himself into a goalscoring position. Just after the 60th minute, Emery opted to substitute Nketiak for Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette.
While it’s easy to be frustrated at the 19-year-old for his poor finishing, his performance in the game at Bloomfield Road doesn’t deserve a majority of the criticism that he received. He linked up very well alongside Iwobi and Maitland-Niles, in particular, in attack and as I mentioned previously he was still able to display a host of positives.
His movement always offers an option for a teammate and his ability to consistently get into goalscoring positions is encouraging too. Considering his low confidence on the pitch, at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if he began to score for fun whenever he does eventually score his next senior goal.
It wasn’t the best game for Nketiah today, but there are signs there that he can realise his potential, hopefully, he is able to reach that.
My verdict – 7/10