Paul Merson has criticised Arsenal’s decision to hand academy gem Eddie Nketiah a new long-term contract at the club following his late resurgence towards the backend of the 2021/22 Premier League season.
The 23-year-old, whose contract was set to expire at the end of the month, looked destined to leave Arsenal this summer, but following a spell in Mikel Arteta’s first team during the latter stages of last season, he has penned fresh terms in north London.
Nketiah spent much of the campaign on the bench, with his first Premier League start actually coming in April, a 1-0 defeat away to Southampton. Despite that loss in Hampshire, the former England U21 international remained at the forefront of Arteta’s thinking.
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He started the final eight Premier League games of the season, scoring notable braces against Chelsea and Leeds United, as well as the second in Arsenal’s 5-1 thrashing of Everton on the final day, prompting the club to tie him down to a new five-year deal.
Despite his end-of-season purple patch, Arsenal great Merson believes the club made a mistake in handing him a bumper contract, suggesting the academy product isn’t capable of leading them into the Premier League top four. In fact, he has suggested he wouldn’t even start for newly-promoted Fulham.
Speaking to the Daily Star, Merson said: “All Arsenal have got up front right now is Eddie Nketiah, who recently signed a new contract when it looked like he might leave.
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“And no disrespect to Nketiah but Mikel Arteta must realise he won’t get you into the top four. Absolutely no chance. That’s a fact.
“Nketiah can’t be spearheading your Champions League push. He’s not getting in ahead of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison at Everton and they almost got relegated.
“He’s not getting in at Fulham ahead of Aleksandr Mitrovic and they’ve only just been promoted. I’m not having a go at him but he’s not getting you top four.”