Sunday, April 21, 2024

Steady Eddie

Morning all.

It’s fairly quiet as you might expect with players away on international duty and the dust settling on the opening four games of the Premier League season. As Bukayo Saka is named England’s Men’s Player of the Year for the second successive year, Eddie Nketiah is enjoying his first England call-up, and spoke to the media yesterday.

There were some comments about his relationship with Gabriel Jesus, in which he talked about their positive relationship and how the competition might benefit them as players and the team. He said:

He is a fantastic player and a great guy off the pitch. We get on really well. It’s nice to be competing with someone of that standard. It’s only going to do things for me and we both know we want to do the same thing, which is help the team, contribute and score goals. Naturally we push each other in training, we push each other in games.

It’s healthy and friendly competition. We know that sometimes we’re going to play together, sometimes I might play, sometimes he might play. We have that good relationship where we always support each other. We all want the same thing which is to help Arsenal. I’m sure hopefully it will be a great season for both of us.

I have to say, there was a point a couple of years ago where I really thought the best thing for him would be to leave. It was difficult to see him getting minutes on a consistent basis, but what we’ve learned about Nketiah is this time is that he is clearly very determined and will, as Mikel Arteta said about his training, work ‘like a beast’ to get his chances. To my mind, there’s no question he has improved and matured as a player, and that’s obviously a good thing. Elements of his game which weren’t his strengths – involvement in the build-up, and playing with his back to goal – are better. I also think he’s got a nice way of playing on the turn when we’re up against a team that has a high defensive line, not that we’ve experienced that too much this season yet.

All the same, I think the pecking order still exists. If I was picking our best team for an important game tomorrow, Jesus would be the man I’d pick every time. Nevertheless, Eddie’s improvement is tangible. It’s not necessarily an exact comparison, but look at the way he played on Sunday versus Anthony Martial for United. Our striker was busy, hard working, involved in the equaliser; whereas theirs was basically invisible – and I do think Martial’s passivity was part of why Rasmus Hojlund looked so impressive when he came on. He might well be a very good player for United, but he basically just rampaged around a bit and it caught the eye because of what had come before. A little something is always better than nothing.

Ultimately, strikers will be judged on the goals they score, and it was pleasing to see Eddie come off the bench and get on the scoresheet against Fulham. If that’s something else he can add to his game, it will be very useful given his role in the squad. And if the competition between himself and Jesus remains positive, let’s hope the team benefits because of that.

Speaking of competition, I saw a story suggesting Mikel Arteta was thinking of giving David Raya a run in the team because of how impressive he’s been in training. I do wonder if that’s a bit of kite-flying, to test the waters of public opinion perhaps. When a player and the goalkeeping coach share an agent, I’d be a little cautious about where exactly the information has come from. Cui bono, and all that.

It might be just a case that with Champions League and an EFL Cup fixture against Brentford to come (in which Raya is cleared to play), the Spaniard has been earmarked for the role of cup keeper. He’s down to play those games, while Aaron Ramsdale plays in the Premier League. It is an interesting dynamic, one which will probably fluctuate a little throughout this season depending on form and all the rest, so let’s see what happens there.

Right, I’m going to play golf again. We’re having the last few days of ‘summer’ sunshine here, so you’ve got to make the most of it. Especially after the great wettening that was July.

Till tomorrow, take it easy folks.

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