Arsenal legend and Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith has claimed that Mikel Arteta “does not really rate” Eddie Nketiah.
The Hale End graduate was linked with a departure from the Emirates throughout the January transfer window.
But despite reported interest from Newcastle and Crystal Palace, Arsenal kept hold of Nketiah past the deadline.
The 22-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and is yet to pen fresh terms.
Arteta has previously stated that he’s keen to keep Nketiah despite the player turning down a new deal at the club.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang leaving the club, Arsenal are now a striker short and Nketiah could get more chances.
Smith, writing on Sky Sports, says Nketiah has “got plenty to prove at Arsenal” but “who knows” whether he’ll do so.
“He’s not really convinced”
“You would imagine he will get more opportunities now than he did previously,” wrote Smith.
“We will wait and see. It does not seem to me Arteta is at all convinced by him as a starter.
“He’s done well in the Carabao Cup and has scored goals. But that’s come mainly against clubs in the lower divisions.
“When he has had the chance from the start in the Premier League, he’s not really convinced that he is somebody that can lead the line.
“He’s a penalty area poacher and you need a little bit more than that as the striker in Arteta’s system. Especially when you are playing through the middle on your own.
“So, he’s still got plenty to prove at Arsenal but as to whether he can do that in the next few months, who knows.
“He may be able to do it. He’s obviously trying to keep all his options open and make himself a more attractive proposition for clubs in the summer when he is available on a free transfer.
“He will not be short of offers, I am sure, but perhaps he has sensed the manager does not really rate him. If that is the case, you would want to get away.
“It will be interesting to see how it all pans out and if he can perhaps change the manager’s mind.”
A lose-lose situation for Arteta – TBR View
Arsenal parted company with 13 players in January, including several first-teamers.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, former captain and club talisman, was one of those who left.
Now, Arsenal have just two senior centre-forwards in their ranks – Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette.
And if Lacazette gets injured, then Arteta will have no choice but to let Nketiah lead the line.
Given he’s struggled at times in the top flight, Arteta is taking a big risk here.
Now, if Nketiah does really well, it’ll be great for both player and club.
However, with his contract coming to an end, he could well decide to up sticks anyway.
And one of Arsenal’s rivals could then just swoop and sign him for nothing.
On the other hand, if he struggles, then Arteta’s gamble will have backfired and he’ll come under criticism.
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