Thursday, February 29, 2024

Eddie Nketiah signs a contract extension and changes number

Good morning, hope you and yours are well this Sunday.

The main story is the contract extension signed by Eddie Nketiah and officially announced yesterday. Mikel Arteta says:

I’m delighted Eddie is staying with us. 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.

And to be fair, the manager has consistently said he’d like to keep Eddie, so this isn’t a deal based on the goals he scored in the last few games of the season. However, given the way his contract was running down, and the player’s desire to get more regular football, it looked as if he’d leave on a Bosman.

I’ll admit I thought he would go for those reasons, but obviously he feels like he can fulfill his ambitions here. I guess with any contract negotiation the club has to present some kind of plan to a player and his agent about what kind of role they see for him, which isn’t necessarily the same as being given assurances, but we all know we’ve got a lot of football next season with the return of Europe, the ability to use five subs too, so there will be lots of playing time. Also – not that the two things are directly connected – but Eddie’s agent is Bukayo Saka’s agent, so perhaps getting this deal done augurs well for the extension we’d all like to see happen this summer.

Obviously Arsenal are still after the number 1 striker, the links to Gabriel Jesus persist and I think most people expect that deal to get done. That leaves Eddie as the back-up option, and still with plenty to prove. That spell at the end of the season, with five goals in seven games, was decent (almost like he’d listened to a motivational podcast or something), but the next step in his career is to produce on a more consistent basis.

In the podcast he did with The Beautiful Game, he was quite up front, saying (and I’m paraphrasing here), ‘If I get a run of starts and don’t score, fair enough, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve blown my chance’. But he got that run of starts, scored goals and looked more dangerous, so hopefully that’s something he can build on. He’s only just gone 23, and there’s obvious room for improvement.

He’s also taken the number 14 and good luck to him. If people are furious about that, they need to run their heads under some cold water and go outside for a while. It’s just a number. I mean, if you come to me complaining that William Gallas, a Chelsea centre-half, has just taken 10 the season after Dennis Bergkamp retired, then I’m with you all the way, comrade. That’s an abomination of gargantuan proportions, and I will march to the ends of the earth in protest, but a young Arsenal striker – a fan who has come through the Academy too – taking 14, come on.

Here’s Eddie:

I grew up as an Arsenal fan, it was in my family – my dad had grown up as an Arsenal fan so it was always there. Thierry playing there when I was really young, those are my first memories.

So why on earth wouldn’t he want that number? And why shouldn’t he have it? Sure, Thierry Henry wore it, but so too did Martin Keown, and a cast of luminaries in our history. It’s not as if we retired it or anything.

It’s such errant nonsense, and I was going to say I can’t believe people are getting angry about it, but then the Internet is the place where people just want to be angry at stuff that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Last season Emile Smith Rowe took on the responsibility of the number 10 shirt and I didn’t hear anything like this, or that it was tarnishing the legacy of Dennis Bergkamp, so why should it be any different for Eddie Nketiah?

When Smith Rowe moved to 10, Arteta said something about the weight of that number because of who had worn it before, and he rose to that ‘challenge’. I’m sure Eddie will feel similarly. In the end a player is judged by what he does on the pitch, not what number he’s wearing, but I’m sure he’ll be motivated to do justice to the 14 worn by his childhood hero.

As I said above, I think there’s still plenty for him to do to prove himself – not least because the sample size is quite small – but let’s hope he can do it because if it works for Eddie, it works for Arsenal and that’s the main thing.

Have a great Sunday folks.

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