Former Arsenal star Paul Merson has torn into Mikel Arteta over his decision to tie Eddie Nketiah down to a new deal – and says they have no chance of making the top four with him in their side.
The Gunners manager is busy shaping his squad ahead of the new season. Their summer transfer business has got off to a solid start so far with Fabio Vieira, Marquinhos and Matt Turner arriving to the collective tune of £40m. But the next week could see things really kick off with a couple of exciting deals in the works for Arsenal.
Indeed, they are pushing hard to sign Raphinha from Leeds with a second bid imminent for the Brazilian. To that end, Fabrizio Romano has revealed just how in love with the Brazilian he is.
However, his prospective signing looks unlikely to the next signing Arsenal usher through the doors. That honour is likely to fall on Gabriel Jesus, with an agreement for his signing seemingly done.
His arrival from Manchester City will cost Arsenal as much as £50m. It also ends Arteta’s long search to sign a new centre forward. That is an area they look light on with Alexandre Lacazette joining Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through the exit door.
They did convince Nketiah to sign a new deal, however. His new deal, worth an estimated £100,000 a week, was formally announced last weekend.
The England U21 striker enjoyed an excellent end to the season; form which convinced Arteta he was worthy of keeping.
Eddie Nketiah not up to standard
But that decision has angered Merson. He claims Nketiah would not start for Fulham or Everton – two sides who will likely battle down the wrong end of the table next season.
And writing in his Daily Star column, Merson claims Arsenal have no hope of a top-four with Nketiah in attack.
‘All Arsenal have got up front right now is Eddie Nketiah, who recently signed a new contract when it looked like he might leave,’ Merson wrote.
‘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.’
Paul Merson has it wrong
Merson’s criticism of Nketiah seems unjust in our eyes. Granted, he might not be the best in the business, but as a squad option, he’s not a bad option for Arsenal to call upon.
To be fair, Arteta recognises that need by pushing hard to sign an upgrade in Jesus. But when called upon, Nketiah has shown himself capable of scoring goals at this level. The very fact he finished the 2021/22 campaign with five goals in seven games illustrates that.
It’s also worth highlighting that Nketiah has never really had a regular run of games at this level to prove his worth.
And if Merson thinks Nketiah wouldn’t get games at Fulham, then he’s mistaken. The Cottagers would cry out for a striker of his quality as an option.
Quite simply, Paul Merson is just using Nketiah an unfortunate stick to beat Arsenal with. And the Gunners simply can’t go out and buy two £50m strikers this summer. Therefore, Nketiah was rightly tied down to a new deal and will likely still have a key role for the Gunners this season.
Eddie Nketiah rewarded with a new Arsenal contract
Eddie Nketiah will sign a new Arsenal contract this summer despite interest from other clubs
And who, in their right mind, would allow a £20m-rated asset leave for free anyway. Yes, Nketiah costs big in wages, but not as much as some other of his rivals.