Ghana starget Eddie Nketiah is on the verge of committing his long-term future to Arsenal only months after turning down multiple renewal offers.
The 23-year-old can supposedly expect to pocket a whopping £100k per week over the course of the next five years – as well as up to £5m in add-ons – should he put pen to paper on his new contract, which would tie him down until his 28th birthday in the summer of 2027.
Terms of that calibre were seemingly unthinkable for a man who was a bit-part player for Mikel Arteta at best earlier this season. Then again, breaking into the first XI ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette is a tall order for any number nine.
However, it now appears that Nketiah will be given what he feels he deserves after a bright end to the 2021-22 season with Arteta’s side, but unsurprisingly, news of the striker’s renewal has been met with mixed responses from Gooners.
Some simple arithmetic helps us figure out that Arsenal would fork out over £30m over the duration of Nketiah’s new contract, which is assuming that the Englishman sees out his terms and hits all his performance targets for a £5m bonus.
There can be no denying that Nketiah provided Arsenal’s chief goal threat during the final gameweeks of the season. Aubameyang was long gone, Emile Smith Rowe‘s form had taken a nosedive, and the less said about Lacazette’s contributions the better.
Even before Nketiah had broken into the first XI on a regular basis, there were flashes of a player who had undergone a significant period of improvement. Given that he did not even make a Premier League squad for the 2021-22 season until November, that did not come as a huge surprise.
The visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers to the Emirates in February saw Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe come off the bench to spark a dramatic Arsenal comeback, with the former providing the assist for Pepe’s equaliser and showing glimpses of what he could offer to Arteta.
Previously renowned as something of a penalty-box poacher for Arsenal, Nketiah’s dribbling, willingness to drive forward from deep and pressing intensity caught the eye of fans while Lacazette was failing to fire in front of goal.
The Frenchman’s bout of COVID-19 handed Nketiah the chance to stake his claim for regular starts against Chelsea, and by taking advantage of Andreas Christensen‘s error before poking home through a crowd of Chelsea shirts, England Under-21’s record goalscorer did exactly that.
Following his Stamford Bridge brace, Arteta admitted that he might have been a bit unfair towards Nketiah during his brief yet regular 20-minute cameos off the bench. The forward failed to net in subsequent wins over West Ham United and Manchester United, but he provided a much greater presence in the final third than Lacazette had done previously.
A quickfire brace against former club Leeds United – the first of which came from his desire and tenacity to press an uncomfortable Illan Meslier – preceded a header against Everton on the final day of the season, seeing Nketiah surpass Lacazette’s 2021-22 Premier League goal tally in only eight starts – 12 fewer than the captain.
Only the young attacking quartet of Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli would score more Premier League goals for Arsenal than Nketiah, whose quintet of strikes in the EFL Cup saw him reach double figures for the season in all tournaments and end the season as Arteta’s third-highest goalscorer.
At the very least, letting Nketiah leave for nothing after his glittering stint in the first XI was simply not an option for a club who have become renowned for such dealings in recent years – see Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil.
Interest in Nketiah is thought to have been rife before he committed himself to his boyhood club, with teams in England and Germany keeping a close eye on his development, and snapping up a young centre-forward without having to pay Arsenal a penny would have been another blot on the Gunners’ transfer notebook.
Arteta arguably cannot afford to be too picky with his squad members now that Thursday night football returns in the form of the Europa League. The need for depth has seen Mohamed Elneny – another player who was set to walk out of the door – also commit himself to fresh terms.
Elneny’s new short-term contract was a shrewd move for a player who turns 30 next month, does not complain about a lack of playing time and is more than happy to accept a rotation role at a club he loves. Nketiah, on the other hand, will not be content with his previous standing in the squad.
Committing himself to Arsenal for another five years will lead Nketiah to demand regular starts that he knows he would certainly have been offered elsewhere. At 23, the Englishman still has plenty of time to develop, and a couple of notable misses in the past couple of months proves that he is far from the finished product.
Possessing a striker who can hit the 20-goal mark is of paramount importance to Arsenal as they bid to return to the Champions League, and Edu cannot afford to rest on his laurels once Nketiah’s new deal is confirmed – at least one more centre-forward must be signed this summer to keep the 23-year-old on his toes.
Handing Nketiah a five-year deal on £100k per week after a few strong performances is without doubt a questionable move from the powers-that-be, but his improvement is there for all to see.
Even if Nketiah cannot continue to develop in the same vein, garnering a respectable fee for the striker in 2023 or 2024 is certainly a viable option, so there are few reasons for Arsenal fans not to get behind the club’s decision to keep him around for a little bit longer.