Football Features

“Natural goalscorer” Eddie Nketiah bags a brace as Arsenal blast four by Chelsea to stay in Premier League top four race

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:17, 20 April 2022

Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal won a topsy-turvy game against Chelsea to keep pace with Spurs in the race for Champions League places.

The win sees Arsenal stay in fifth but they are now level on points with their rivals with the season’s final North London Derby still to come in May. The Gunners took the lead on three separate occasions before securing the win with a stoppage time penalty to inflict Chelsea’s third consecutive home defeat (the first time that’s happened for 28 years).

Bukayo Saka’s penalty put the seal on things but the star of the show was Arsenal’s lead striker, Eddie Nketiah. Given the start ahead of the fit again Alexandre Lacazette, Nketiah made the most of his chance against the club that released him as a youngster.

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Nketiah opened the scoring 13 minutes into the game, pressing Andreas Christensen into making a sloppy backpass which the young striker pounced upon, finishing with the utmost serenity beyond the static Edouard Mendy.

But Arsenal being Arsenal only held onto that lead for four minutes as Timo Werner pulled Chelsea level. But a slick counter-attack saw Emile Smith Rowe pass Arsenal back into the lead but again five minutes passed before César Azpilicueta’s wonderful equaliser.

Things remained on a knife-edge through half-time and the stage was then set for Nketiah’s dagger. A nice cross from Nuno Tavares saw the young striker spin away from Thiago Silva, but the Brazilian’s tackle deflected off Malang Sarr rushing over to help and fell back to Nketiah.

Sarr kept moving, however, and as Nketiah tried to dip inside the Frenchman the ball was intercepted. Except it just bobbled in place and Nketiah reacted quicker than anyone else and poked it home beyond Mendy.

It wasn’t the prettiest goal but it showed that Nketiah has something that not many Arsenal players do: a killer instinct. The ball finds him in the box, or he finds the ball in the box. And when he does he doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t panic, and just remains cool and composed.

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“Yeah it makes it that bit more special,” said Nketiah after the game, when asked if scoring against his former club felt special.

But for a striker, traditionally a selfish position, Nketiah’s thoughts were only about the collective: “today it’s good that I got two goals but it’s not about me, it’s about the team bouncing back and getting the three points we all worked hard for. So I’m happy with that.”

“That’s the difference of a striker who really wants something,” said Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink on Sky Sports after the match. Speaking about Nketiah’s first goal; “he goes across Sarr so Sarr can’t tackle him. If he tackles him he gets a red card. But then the finish goes across to the other side. Brilliant brilliant. Very calm and very well deserved.”

“He was a nuisance all game, he was non-stop, he was effervescent,” added Jamie Redknapp. Before Hasselbaink jumped back into the discussion to praise Nketiah: “he’s very sharp there, he’s sharper than defenders. That’s where he comes alive there, in the box. He just knows, he anticipates quicker than the others.”

Paul Merson then joined in on the Nketiah love-in: “you can’t believe how hard that finish was,” the ex-Arsenal man said. “That was a phenomenal goal. You have to toe poke, he’s in between two players.”

On the matter of Nketiah keeping his place in the side, Merson said it plain: “for me he plays; he’s a goalscorer. They lost three games, had 55 shots, scored 1 goal. ‘They haven’t got a natural goalscorer,’ he’s staring them straight in the face!”

But Merson did caution overhype: “the consistency levels are not there, but if he gets consistent over three or four games; Arsenal come fourth. He’s a natural goalscorer. His first goal is a phenomenal finish and his second is just as good.”

“Plus he’s willing to run beyond. He’s willing to run. Lacazette wouldn’t have chased that first one down. He wouldn’t have scored them two goals even though he’s a good footballer Lacazette, probably a better footballer; not a finisher.”