CHRIS SUTTON: I was WRONG about Eddie Nketiah when I described Gabriel Jesus as ‘irreplaceable’ after his injury. The Arsenal striker has been outstanding and could help England cope if they lost Harry Kane
- Nketiah is sparking a battle between England and Ghana after his impressive run
- He is England’s all-time U21 record goalscorer with 16 goals from 17 appearances
I got it wrong. Feel free to cut out those words and frame them because you won’t see me saying that often!
But on Eddie Nketiah, I got it wrong. I described Gabriel Jesus as ‘irreplaceable’ when he was injured. I thought Arsenal would struggle without him. Admit it, you probably did, too.
His high press. His link-up play. His creativity. His leadership, having come from a club in Manchester City that demands nothing less than winning. All were key to Arsenal turning into surprise title contenders and suddenly, Mikel Arteta was facing months without those attributes. Yes, I thought they’d struggle. But Nketiah has proved me and plenty of others wrong.
Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah has seized his chance following an injury to Gabriel Jesus
He’s 23 and with the support of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli, he’s used this rare run of Premier League starts to his advantage. That’s what young players have to do: grab the opportunity with both hands and don’t let go.
I remember waiting for my chance at Norwich. In November 1991, centre half Ian Butterworth limped off in a First Division game against Liverpool at Anfield. We were 2-1 down and my manager, Dave Stringer, threw me on in his place. There I was, a teenage striker at centre back, trying to stop Liverpool from scoring, despite a red wall sucking the ball towards the Kop. I was s******g myself.
ut these are the moments when you either succeed or shrink. I held my own and by the time we faced Liverpool in the reverse fixture in February 1992, I was starting as a striker in a 3-0 win at Carrow Road.
The 23-year-old scored twice in Sunday’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Manchester United
I didn’t look back, and Nketiah isn’t looking back now. He’s performing at such a high level that it will take some doing for Jesus to replace him, whenever he is fit again.
England manager Gareth Southgate can only be loving this. For so long, we’ve wondered who can deputise for Harry Kane. Callum Wilson? Dominic Calvert-Lewin? Ivan Toney? Danny Ings? Well, how about the guy who took over from Alan Shearer and Francis Jeffers as the record scorer for England’s Under 21s? Nketiah is showing why all is not lost if we lose Kane.
When Jesus’s injury was confirmed, we all wondered: ‘Can Arsenal cope?’ Not only have they coped, if anything they’ve improved. That’s down to Nketiah seamlessly taking over, in spite of the pressure he must have been feeling deep down.
He’s been so outstanding that I’ll say it again: I was wrong!
The striker is England’s all-time U21 record goalscorer with 16 goals from 17 appearances
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