This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Fan Perspective’ series, this content strand is where we deliver an opinion-based outlook from the perspective of a certain club’s fanbase on the matter at hand…
It has been revealed that Arsenal are not to send out Eddie Nketiah on-loan again following his recall from Leeds United at the beginning of the month.
Rewind back to the start of the season where Leeds United were eager to add more firepower to their squad under Marcelo Bielsa, following the surprising departure of Kemar Roofe to Anderlecht.
Fans were buoyant, however, after Roofe was replaced by Arsenal starlet Eddie Nketiah on deadline day, as the Whites beat off stiff competition from Championship rivals and European clubs for his signature.
He arrived at the club under the impression that he was to gain his first run of senior games in his career, having sporadically featured for the Gunners last season. Nketiah got off to the perfect start and raised fans’ expectations even further when he scored on both his EFL Cup debut and Championship debut against Salford City and Brentford respectively.
Following this, league starts never came despite his huge early impact off the bench, coinciding with Patrick Bamford’s dry run of 12 league games without a goal. Leeds fans became increasingly frustrated with team selection during this rut of Bamford’s, no more so than when the Arsenal man snatched a draw away to Preston North End off the bench after Bamford missed at least three great opportunities.
It took until the game before the New Year for Nketiah to be handed his first start under Bielsa against Birmingham City and the general consensus amongst the Leeds faithful was that this was too little too late for Leeds to convince Mikel Arteta and Arsenal not to recall him from this loan.
He started the next game against West Brom too on New Year’s Day but this marked his farewell as he moved to applaud the away fans after the game, showing the clear sign of someone who won’t be clapping those fans ever again.
Nketiah returned to Arsenal with the vast majority regretting the missed opportunity to utilise one of England’s biggest young talents over the season and most Leeds fans were dreading the sight of him moving to a Championship rival and coming back to haunt the Whites with goals against them.
However, after talks with a number of clubs in and around the play-offs, it was revealed that Arsenal are to keep Nketiah for the rest of the season and not loan him out to another club, much to the bemusement of everyone of a Leeds persuasion.
The reason for their decision to recall the England under-21 international was over his lack of game time at Elland Road, which is justified given that he made just two starts from the 26 league games Leeds had played. The problem here that Leeds fans have is that their decision to recall him and keep him in their squad makes no sense with his demands to play as much as possible.
Can you remember the last 12 No.10s at Elland Road?
Nketiah’s problem was that he couldn’t demonstrate the qualities as a lone striker that Bamford could (beyond just scoring), and this meant he had to settle for a role as ‘impact sub’. However, he is now faced with the problem of trying to displace one of the best strikers in European football in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as well Alexandre Lacazette, which everyone, apart from maybe Marcelo Bielsa, will believe is a more daunting task.
This now leaves Whites fans praying that the club gets a deal over the line for a proven striker that can fire the team to glory while Nketiah is going to be getting even less game time than he was in the first half of the season. So, Leeds fans have every right to be baffled by the Gunners’ decision, given the current standing of the two sides and the difference in the need for a young English striker in Nketiah.
Marcelo Bielsa could certainly have no complaints if Arsenal recalled him and shipped straight to a team that could guarantee him starts every week, but this decision certainly leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of pretty much every Leeds fan who can’t fathom how Arsenal are going to justify him playing more at the Emirates now compared to Elland Road.