For Arsenal fans, a major point of pride of the last few years has been the clubs ability to get academy talent in the first-team. The rise of the likes of Bukayo Saka is seen as an excellent way to show the club is growing. Despite a failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, the Gunners are still seen as an enviable club by many. However, the main problem that they face is the same as it has been for years – doing contracts at the right time.
The club has a habit of signing long-term deals when they shouldn’t. The eye-watering wages of both Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were seen as busts by the club not long after each deal was signed. At the time, it was seen as a power play to show the club can keep their best talent hanging around. In the end, it represented an expensive flop and both players were practically given away.
At the other end of the spectrum, numerous mistakes have been made with prolonging contracts. The likes of Robin van Persie and Alexis Sanchez were eventually sold to domestic rivals for a fraction of their value. Why? Because the club did not act when they were at peak value and renewed contracts. By the time the players blossomed, their salaries and career ambitions did not pair up with Arsenal’s short-term future.
Now, one player who looked like he fell in the middle of these two houses was Eddie Nketiah. An exciting and pacy young academy prospect, the striker has never shown a prolific touch at any level. Until the end of this season, a paltry goal return had most Gunners fans keen to see him move on and start afresh at a new club.
Change in circumstances could see Nketiah stay
Now, reports suggest that the Gunners will look to sign the player on a new deal and keep him around for four more years. This would be interesting as a turnaround, as it was long expected that he would move on and sign for Crystal Palace. Arsenal have offered better terms, and the player feels both comfortable and respected at the Emirates.
There is growing optimism among both player and club, then, that a new deal will be done. Given the need to sign more than one forward this summer, keeping an academy-trained talent who can play a squad role will be very important. However, any hopes that the player will be able to be a starting-tier talent to get the club back into the top four should still be tempered.
Though it is exciting that Nketiah might stick around after all, the youngster does have a ceiling. A purple patch at the end of the season should not disguise the fact that his game, and the team as a whole, needs lots of work and improvement in the near future.
For now, though, it looks like Arsenal will be keeping an important academy prospect at the club.