He’s a confident boy – Mikel Arteta says Eddie Nketiah unfazed by starting role

He’s A Confident Boy – Mikel Arteta Says Eddie Nketiah Unfazed By Starting Role
The 23-year-old replaced the injured Gabriel Jesus in the Gunners attack. © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Rachel Steinberg, PA

Eddie Nketiah was utterly unfazed by the pressure of replacing injured striker Gabriel Jesus in Arsenal’s 3-1 Boxing Day comeback win over West Ham, said boss Mikel Arteta.

Nketiah netted the third goal in the Gunners’ return to Premier League action, which also marked the 23-year-old’s first start of the season after his Brazilian team-mate sustained a knee injury during the World Cup.


While some felt that Nketiah might succumb to the stress of stepping into the boots of the prolific Jesus, who has scored five goals in 14 top-flight appearances this season, Arteta was adamant his forward approached the opportunity more like a walk in the park.

The Spaniard also hopes Nketiah’s goal will be a further shot in the arm for the striker’s self-belief.

“He’s a really confident boy,” he said. “But hopefully [the goal] can give him, if he had any doubts, more confidence about what he is capable of doing. His performance was really, really good, and on top of that he scored a great goal. For Eddie and for the team I think it was really important.”


Arsenal controlled much of the first half at the Emirates, launching wave after wave of attack but failing to turn numerous chances into an opening goal.



It was the visitors who pulled ahead in the 27th minutes after William Saliba brought down Jarrod Bowen inside the area and Said Benrahma converted the resulting penalty.

The Gunners frustration grew as a late handball call in their favour was overturned by a VAR check to end the first half but remained resolute after the restart.

It paid off as quickfire goals from Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli handed the hosts the lead before the hour as former Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, returning to the Emirates for the first time since 2018, applauded approvingly from the stands.


Supporters were vocal in their support for Nketiah from kick-off and finally got the reward they were cheering for when he pounced on a quick tap from Martin Odegaard, neatly spun around marker Thilo Kehrer and sealed victory for his side.

Odegaard picked up two assists in a single Premier League match for the second time in his career, having also achieved the same feat last Boxing Day against Norwich.

“It was a top performance,” said Arteta of his captain. “You look at everything he did with the ball, but [also] what he did without the ball, chapeau.”

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard picked up two assists in a single game for the second time in his Premier League career
Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard picked up two assists in a single game for the second time in his Premier League career (Steven Paston/PA)

The win ensured Arsenal ended the evening with a seven-point lead over second-placed Newcastle, who sat one point clear of Manchester City at the conclusion of Boxing Day action.

While Arteta has been quick to emphasise the challenging second half of the season ahead, he has not stopped his side from daring to dream about silverware.

“I allow them to do everything that they want,” he said. “What I tell them is that we have to focus on us. We cannot control what the opponents are going to do, how good they are going to become, or how many points they are going to earn or drop.”

West Ham boss David Moyes praised his opposite number but stopped short of declaring him a title-winner
West Ham boss David Moyes praised his opposite number but stopped short of declaring Arteta a title-winner (Steven Paston/PA)

West Ham boss David Moyes agreed his opposite number was enjoying an excellent campaign, but balked when asked if he had just shared the pitch with a title-winning manager.

“I think he might go on to be one,” he said. “Do I think they’re going to win it this year? Not sure. You’d be remiss if you don’t think of Man City, if you don’t think of them.

“You’d be doing them down because they are a fantastic team. And there will be other teams who will be a bit more used to being around the top [like] a Liverpool later on, but not to say that Mikel isn’t building a side capable.”

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