Eddie Nketiah scored a hat-trick in Arsenal U23s’ 3-0 win over Leicester U23s on Monday night.
The 17-year-old striker opened the scoring with an excellent curling effort before doubling his tally with a low, drilled finish and completed his treble with a close-range volley.
It was a memorable display to enhance a growing reputation. Nketiah has been tipped for a bright future at Arsenal, but who exactly is he? And what does he have to offer?
Arsenal signed up Nketiah after he was released by Chelsea in the summer of 2015. The youngster had been on the Blues’ books since he was spotted playing for his local team in south London as a nine-year-old, but the Gunners were quick to pounce when he was told he would not be offered a scholarship.
Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth
Nketiah was invited to train with Arsenal just a few days after Chelsea confirmed his release, and their youth coaches liked what they saw. Within a week, Nketiah accepted a scholarship from Arsenal. He’s been rising through the ranks ever since.
Nketiah is a quick and skilful frontman who is known for his clever runs in behind opposition defences. He describes his finishing ability as his main strength, and it’s easy to see why.
His goalscoring prowess has made him a star of Arsenal’s U18s. Last season he was their top scorer with 24 goals in 28 appearances, and he has continued in the same vein in the new campaign.
His goals against Leicester on Monday night were his first at U23 level, but he has scored 14 in 16 appearances in total this season. His tally includes nine strikes for the U18s, and he also netted twice on his UEFA Youth League debut against Paris Saint-Germain U19s in October.
Nketiah can also play on the flanks, and he models his game on Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. If he can reach anything like the heights of his idol, the Gunners will be very happy indeed.
Nketiah is yet to feature for the Arsenal first team but he is rated as a real prospect. He was handed his first professional contract in September, and he will be eager to follow in the footsteps of fellow academy graduate Alex Iwobi in the years ahead.
He does, of course, face stiff competition for a place in Arsene Wenger’s first-team squad. Arsenal are well-stocked for strikers having added Lucas Perez to the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck, and they also have the likes of Chuba Akpom and Yaya Sanogo in reserve.
Nketiah will also face competition from some of the other forwards in Arsenal’s academy. The 18-year-old Chris Willock has already made two EFL Cup appearances, while the likes of Stephy Mavididi, Donyell Malen and Josh Dasilva are also aiming to make the step up.
It’s a big test for Nketiah, but in the last two seasons none of his fellow youngsters have come close to matching his scoring exploits. If he builds on his bright start, Arsenal fans can expect to get their first glimpse of Eddie Nketiah sooner rather than later.
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