Mikel Arteta has reiterated his desire to see Eddie Nketiah sign a new deal at Arsenal and says the striker’s hat-trick against Sunderland is further proof that he has “a smell fo goals” and is developing in the right way.
On a night when the visitors flirted with an unlikely comeback, Nketiah’s ruthlessness inside the six-yard box calmed Gunners nerves as we eventually ran out 5-1 winners to seal a place in the Carabao Cup semi-finals.
All three strikes were classics of the Nketiah oeuvre, involving excellent anticipation, quick movement and first-time finishes.
Given Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang’s continued absence and an upcoming trip to the African Cup of Nations, Arteta now hopes to reward 22-year-old with more games.
“Yes, recently he’s played more minutes than in the past and we’re going to need him and he’s going to play more minutes,” the Spaniard told his post-game press conference.
“I tell you every day that we want to keep Eddie,” he added.
“We see how he trains, that’s what he does every day, he works so hard and puts the ball in the net every session. I am really delighted with him. Every time we have needed him he has always responded.”
Out of contract in the summer and free to sign a pre-contract agreement with foreign clubs from 10 days time, the odds are stacked against Arsenal when it comes to getting the attacker to pen new terms.
That said, with Auba on the naughty step, Alex Lacazette also out of contract and Flo Balogun still raw, Arteta hasn’t given up hope.
“We are trying,” he said. “It’s not about anything else but minutes. He wants game time, he wants to be on that field and that is the only reason to say, ‘Can I do it here?’ That’s the question. We all want him to stay.”
“I don’t know if he’s different to our other strikers but I really like what he has. He has an incredible work rate, he has pace and has the smell for goals.
“He has the capacity to finish in the box on any surface and then I really like his character. He wants to be the best and works all the time to do that. He’s a player that has come through our system and that’s why we want to keep him.”
For his part, Nketiah is rightfully chuffed to have a first senior hat-trick to his name. The Carabao Cup has been kind to him, it was also the competition in which he scored his debut goals off the bench against Norwich in 2017.
“It’s amazing,” he told Arsenal.com. “It’s great to go through to the next round, and obviously lovely to score a hat-trick in the process.
“I am just really grateful to my teammates for the assists, and grateful to be out there to contribute.
“It’s a different feeling [to my debut against Norwich] but that night will always live long as a special memory. It’s another one to add to the collection and obviously, it’s nice to get my first senior hat-trick and now I’m looking for and hungry for more.
“My family were here watching and to share that moment with the supporters is great for me, and the boys have signed [the match ball] so I will keep it and remember it. It’s a good moment.”