Arsenal strengthened their grip on qualifying for next season’s Champions League group phase after running out 2-1 winners against Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.
Mikel Arteta’s men, following Tottenham dropping two points at Liverpool on Saturday evening, now find themselves four points ahead of their fifth-placed neighbours with the North London Derby to come in a few days time.
The Gunners were once again indebted to Eddie Nketiah who bagged a five-minute brace against his former club. Both efforts came in the opening 10 minutes and though Leeds played the remaining 63 with a man light after Luke Ayling was sent off, the Yorkshiremen still managed to breach Arsenal’s defence, Diego Llorente netting midway through the second half.
Nketiah has been enjoying a run in Arsenal’s first team of late following Alexandre Lacazette being sidelined. Since gaining regular playing time the 22-year-old centre-forward has made the best of these opportunities, netting twice in a sensational win at London rivals Chelsea before doubling his season tally today.
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His first was a gift. With five minutes played, Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier received a back-pass from Ayling and though he appeared to be in control, Nketiah quickly closed him down to score. Nketiah would then jog towards the corner flag while holding his hands in the air. “He is almost too embarrassed to celebrate – or maybe it is because it is against his former club,” Sky Sports commentator Rob Hawthorne said.
It was a far cry from his usual ‘phone-call’ celebration which he whipped out in the aforementioned Chelsea appearance. “In pre-season the Arsenal Media came up with a little thing ‘call me if you need a goal’ so I have kind of just stuck with it,” he recollected.
“A lot of my friends like it so they are eager for me to dial them up if I get on the scoresheet so I try to enjoy each goal, whether that is youth level, in the park, anywhere I always try to celebrate and enjoy it and it is always a blessing to score.”
Any suggestion Nketiah was subdued due to former ties with Leeds evaporated moments later when he converted a left-wing cross into the corner of Meslier’s goal subsequently becoming the second-ever Arsenal player to score twice in the opening ten minutes of a Premier League match, after Nwankwo Kanu against Sunderland in October 2002.
The young marksman celebrated more passionately, but this could potentially be one of his final games in an Arsenal jersey. Nketiah’s present deal expires this summer and there’s been no suggestion of a new contract being offered. That could all change now.