Examining Eddie Nketiah’s Value
At the current moment, Arsenal have a meager two central forwards in the senior squad. And while some might argue that both Pépé and Martinelli should be able to play central, we’ve seen neither being committed to that role. For the same reasons, unless something happens, we now have half a season to assess the value of Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, whom both are out of contract in the summer.
We are all aware of Lacazette’s merits and flaws – and while he was brought in to score goals, it almost seems like his confidence in that area has taken a major hit. As such, I think most of us would have hoped that the Under-21’s national teams seasonal top goal scorer would be able to work his magic for his clubs senior team as well. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, with Nketiah seemingly having a hard to finding consistency in his goal threat and work rate.
As Crystal Palace tried to get hold of him during the winter transfer window, and being denied, you have to ask yourself, what is Eddie’s value, and how do you justify it? Personally, I’d expect Nketiah to be much more of a goal threat than Lacazette, with less ability in the areas of ball retention and hold up play. This is tradeoff most would be okay with, if it meant a return rate of 10-12 more goals per season. As such, I’ve decided to look at three major chances that Nketiah either missed or scored, to try to assess, if there’s something to expect from an extended run this last half season.
Arsenal 5-1 Sunderland 21st December 2021
Starting off on a good day for Eddie, let’s look at his first senior team hat-trick against Sunderland in the league cup. Especially his second goal, as I feel like it shines light on the forwards best abilities. Eddie’s mean goal distance is something like 5 yards, which should give you an idea of his favorite position for goal threats. Some of this also comes from his ability to delay his runs and finding space inside the 6 yard box. Looking at his initial movement, Nketiah keeps his distance to the defenders, in hope of them not bothering him as play moves around him.
Eddie had a few things going for him this game. First of all, Sunderland’s defense were struggling to keep up with Arsenal’s blistering pace and interconnected movement. Their midfield didn’t help the central defenders with communicating Eddie’s movement, as they were not in any position to shield for the cross. That being said, when play is allowed to develop around him, Eddie looks very comfortable at taking the right position to spring into action. This does mean he needs someone to draw the attention, which in this case was made simple by the amount of time Tavares had to point the cross, and the position of ESR, Pépé and Ødegaard.
Nottingham Forest 1 – 0 Arsenal 9th Jan 2022
This was about 2½ weeks after his initial buzzing display against Sunderland. It was a slow day for Nketiah, being limited to 4 shots, in where 2 of them were blocked by a defender. That being said, there was one chance, from open play, that would have helped Arsenal immensely that day. In the 57th minute, Saka finds himself in a situation where he have the time and space to make the right pass. Everything up to the chance was great movement against a low block team, the killer instinct failed.
As Saka receives the ball after a quick turnover, Nottingham Forest finds themselves flat and unable to engage the winger without sacrificing the space behind them. Saka drags the line further backwards, towards the edge of the area. Notice the defender initially checking his shoulder to assess the position of Nketiah and Martinelli.
Nketiah manages to get behind his defender, as Martinelli moves towards the penalty area, dragging his marker with him. With his marker unaware of his position, Nketiah has the chance to halt his run or move slightly further back to gain an uncontested header on the edge of the 6 yards box. This also means the goalkeeper has to turn his body to face a close range shot, allowing Nketiah to pick his target easier.
Looking at the chance, Nketiah manages to do most things correctly up until the header. While it does curl towards goal, I’d wager he gets a bit too far forward to head it cleanly, and thus can’t guide it better. That being said, I would also like to add that he didn’t have to guide it as directly far post as he did. As long as he didn’t hit the keeper smack dab in the middle of his face, he just needed to head it towards the goal. From that close a range, you don’t need a lot of placement to score, you mainly just need power and purpose.
Nketiah’s header had neither. While Nketiah only had 2 shots less against Nottingham Forest than he did against Sunderland, there’s a clear pattern to his desired type of goal and position. Sunderland gave him time and space to make darting runs inside the box, but Nott’s Forest denied him a lot of space to make the same type of runs in behind. As they denied space in wide areas, Nketiah didn’t have many chances to use his strengths as much. When your main goal strength is tap ins, you have to put them away when the chances present them selves.
Arsenal 2 – 0 Leeds 26th October 2021
I debated taking a gander at another chance Nketiah had against Nottingham Forest, where he had the chance to go 1v1 with the keeper, but instead had his shot blocked. Luckily he had a similar chance some months ago against Leeds, in which he did a lot better. This highlight a part of Nketiah that I wish he nutured a lot more. He’s been working vigorously to gain some physicality against the Premier League’s thuggish defenders, but an edge he has, is his explosive pace off the ball, that sometimes catches defenders off guard.
As Leno releases a long kick up the pitch, Nketiah, miracously, manages to get an uncontested header, which he unfortunately passes directly into a Leeds player. Luckily the opponent heads the ball towards his own goal again, which gives Nketiah the chance to put pressure on the defender.
The defender decides to let the keeper handle it, well knowing there’s quite the distance towards his own goal. Because of the low pace of the ball, this was always a risky move, and as the ball floats, it’s clear Nketiah does have the pace to reach it first.
One thing I’ve learned about Nketiah, when watching him play in the Europa League as well, is that he looks so ferocious in his play, up until he gets it in. As such, his first touch lob, catches Meslier in no mans land and sets Nketiah up for an easy 5 yard tap in. . .
I really do wish Nketiah used his pace and physicality a lot more. Not always as in running off the shoulder, but also in pressing or pushing play forward. Not all defenders like having to decide passes on a timer, and it leads to a lot more turnovers and dispossessions.
Valuing the player and not the results
Arsenal have had their share of forwards the right values, but doesn’t have a lot of end product to show for it. Through the times we’ve said farewell to Chuba Akpom who has gone to score 27 goals and 13 assists in 110 games for Greek side PAOK aswell as Jeff Reine-Adéläide, who had a major boost after joining French club Angers. Sometimes players needs a fresh start, somewhere where they can restart with a clean slate and boost their mentality and confidence.
And while Nketiah’s value is set around €10m, Chuba Akpom were sold for €3.2m and “The Jeff” €1.6m (later €25m). I wonder if Arsenal look at Nketiah as being more valuable. As Arsenal struggle to agree with the right value, some might look at the mouthwatering fees agreed on Rhian Brewster and think that we should expect the same. Nketiah does possess a lot of positive values – his movement off the ball is very good, in attacking situations, his positioning to score tap ins are elite, and his physical profile, bar his height, would suggest he can be molded into a solid player. Unfortunately, his end product isn’t there – and others will jump in and probably do some of the things he does worse, but they’ll hit them inside the net. My guess is that €10m for a young player that probably nets you 5-8 goals a season is what to expect as a maximum. When Brewster was sold, his value was around €5.4m – but he did also fight for a place among Firminho, Salah and Mané. Nketiah fights against Lacazette, mainly. If he can’t outperform Lacazette in terms of goal, you can’t expect a fat cheque.
For what it’s worth, I do think Nketiah is going to develop well. But I do not think it’s going to be at Arsenal – and if he stays in England, it’s either for a Championship club fighting for promotion or in a Graham Potter team. Personally I’d bank on a club abroad though. But what do you think? Does Nketiah have 20+ goals a season in him? Is he going to become the next Gnabry?