Freddie Ljungberg says he’s disappointed that Eddie Nketiah hasn’t had more game time during his loan spell at Leeds United and revealed he’s been in regular contact with the England under-21 international this season.
An Elland Road envoy persuaded the Gunners hierarchy to part with their Academy Graduate in the summer with the promise of giving him the opportunity to continue his development.
While Nketiah has scored goals for the Whites, six in 13 games, he’s only played 444 minutes; the equivalent of five full games.
There have been some suggestions that Arsenal could recall the player in January with a view to loaning him to another club in the second half of the season.
“I need to be careful but I think Eddie is a great player,” the Swede told his pre-Brighton press conference.
“If he goes on loan we want him to play football and get minutes otherwise they (players out on loan) can maybe be here. We want them to be on loan to get minutes.
“I feel a bit sorry for him because he is a great player and the future of this club. When he has had his chance he scores goals and that’s what he is about.”
“I’ve been calling him (throughout the season) and he texted me as well two days ago.
“Like I said I go on a game to game basis but you asked for my opinion and that’s my opinion.”
An abdominal injury kept Nketiah sidelined for four games, but made a comeback five days ago in the 4-0 win over Middlesbrough. He’s since followed that up with game time in the reserves.
“We are happy that Eddie has come back,” said Bielsa. “[On Friday] he has played 45 minutes and today he has more minutes and step by step he will get his fitness level back.”