Prior to Arsenal’s rampant 5-0 win over Sheffield United on Saturday, Eddie Nketiah had gone nine games without a goal in all competitions.
The now-England international played from the start in six of those matches and despite offering plenty to the team in terms of work rate and link play, the critics were starting to become more vocal. Given Gabriel Jesus’ injury struggles this season, Arsenal need someone they can rely upon not just to lead the line, but to score goals.
What better way to silence those critics than by scoring your first-ever Premier League hat-trick that maintains your team’s 10-game unbeaten start?
Eddie Nketiah has scored a hat-trick in the Premier League for the first time in his career:
— Squawka Live (@Squawka_Live) October 28, 2023
For Mikel Arteta, Nketiah’s quality has never been in doubt. Still, it’s nice to see the striker prove as such in the most obvious manner possible.
“Well to me he is top level. He’s started eight out of our ten Premier League games, so that tells you how much we trust him and the importance he has in the team,” Arteta responded when asked about the perception that Nketiah is not ‘top level’. “I’m really happy for him, an academy player to experience a Premier League hat-trick. He needs to enjoy the moment, he fully deserves it, and hopefully, there are many more to come.”
Indeed, Arteta has shown incredible trust in Nketiah who, in the Premier League alone, has played almost 700 minutes already this season. Naturally after a performance like that against Sheffield United, which featured three very different goals of equal quality, some will move to compare him to Jesus and debate who should be Arsenal’s starting No.9.
Arteta, however, preferred to praise Nketiah for what could be a springboard for the rest of his career.
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“I don’t like comparing. I think they are very different,” Arteta said, continuing: “Eddie brings different qualities to the team. He’s got an eye for goal. You look at the stats – he’s remarkable. He needs minutes, opportunities and service. If he gets that, he’s going to score goals, that’s for sure.”
Adding to the praise, Arteta said: “The best thing he’s got, along with the talent, is his mentality. It’s incredible. When he has that mentality and that talent, he’s going to get much better.”
Nketiah reflects on ‘dream moment’
Having been at Arsenal since he was 16 years old, Nketiah has waited a long time for a day like this. The 24-year-old striker will hope this now provides the platform to go on and fully establish himself as a long-term star for the Gunners but, for now, Nketiah was happy to just savour the moment and dedicate his achievement to those closest to him.
“To do it at Emirates Stadium, in the Premier League, in front of my family and friends is an amazing feeling,” he said.
“I lost my aunt not too long ago and I just want to dedicate that to her and her family.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dreamt of this moment – to get three goals in a Premier League [match]. I’m a childhood supporter of the club, so to do it in front of the fans, my friends, my family and my teammates is an amazing feeling. It’s a day I’ll remember forever.”
Nketiah warmed up ahead of West Ham cup clash
The timing of Nketiah’s first hat-trick couldn’t be more ominous for Arsenal’s next opponents, West Ham United, who host the Gunners in the EFL Cup on Wednesday evening.
Across his career so far, Nketiah has enjoyed a unique record against the East London club. During his youth football days, the striker bagged a very impressive five goals in just three appearances against West Ham’s U23 side and that form has translated to senior level, with two goals in six Premier League appearances against the Hammers, including the third in a 3-1 comeback win last Boxing Day.
In nine combined appearances against West Ham’s senior and U23 sides, Nketiah is yet to taste defeat, winning eight times and drawing once.