Arsenal given Eddie Nketiah lifeline as Mikel Arteta admits to frank private chat

Arteta hails Saka's maturity after scoring penalty at Chelsea

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on Eddie Nketiah after netting a brace in Wednesday’s memorable 4-2 win at Chelsea and revealed a private admission made in the build-up. Arteta gave the 22-year-old a rare Premier League start, and he took it with aplomb, helping Arsenal pick up three monumental points in their bid for a top-four finish.

Nketiah profited from an Andreas Christensen howler to open the scoring on 13 minutes before restoring the Gunners’ lead just before the hour mark, making it 3-2. Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka netted the other goals at Arteta’s side moved level on 57 points with fourth-place rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

It was just Nketiah’s second league start of the season ahead of his expected summer exit once his contract expires. And after full-time, Arteta claimed he had admitted to the English striker that he ‘hadn’t been fair’ about his game time this season before giving him a starting berth at Stamford Bridge.

He told BBC Sport: “What Eddie has done tonight is because of what he has done for the last 10 months, and no one has noticed. I said to him I haven’t been fair. I should have been playing him more. We have other issues as well, and that has not been easy. But he deserved completely what happened to him tonight.”

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Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been preferred in the pecking order this term, but one left the club in January, and the other could join Nketiah in leaving as a free agent. But after using him against Chelsea, Arteta might hope he has given the club a lifeline to keep Nketiah and lauded him further.

“When you look at him in training, and how humble and hungry he is, good things happen to good people,” Arteta proclaimed in his post-match interview on Sky Sports. “If I’m happy for anyone, it is especially him because I know what he has been through.”

However, it could be too little, too late for the Spanish coach, who is expected to delve into the transfer market for a striker this summer. Nketiah recently suggested, despite his ‘love’ for Arsenal, that he had turned down contract offers to remain at the Emirates Stadium because his priority is to play regularly.

Speaking on The Beautiful Game Podcast, he admitted: “There have been offers of a new contract, but at the moment, my aim is to play football and play regularly. That’s my ambition, and that’s what I hope to do, but at the same time, I’m at Arsenal. I love Arsenal.”

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