Nketiah had a supporting role of tireless runs but Arsenal need more

Eddie Nketiah played a supporting role of tireless runs and self-sacrifice as Arsenal drew with Newcastle, but Gunners need more… with Gabriel Jesus’ shadow looming large and a potential Mykhailo Mudryk move, the pressure is on the youngster

  • Arsenal drew 0-0 at home to Newcastle on Tuesday in the Premier League
  • Eddie Nketiah started up front for Arsenal once again with Gabriel Jesus injured
  • Nketiah was tireless but only had one only meaningful attempt on goal

It was back in May the last time Arsenal failed to score in a Premier League match. Eddie Nketiah had been in an encouraging run of scoring form, during a rare stint leading the line.

The opponents that evening? Newcastle. A 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park all but ended Arsenal’s hopes of Champions League qualification. Eight months on, another blank, another night of frustration for Mikel Arteta’s side.

This draw won’t require the same home truths that greeted Nketiah and Co in the dressing room that night. But as Arsenal begin a crucial few weeks that will underscore their title hopes, a first stumble.

Eddie Nketiah had a frustrating evening in attack for Arsenal as they were held by Newcastle

This disjointed, fractious display is down in large part to Eddie Howe, who has built the Premier League’s least charitable defence.

Until the closing minutes, when his first and only meaningful attempt on goal was kept out by Nick Pope, Nketiah had not been guilty of missing gilt-edged opportunities or making glaring errors. But in a way, that told its own story.

And with the shadow of Gabriel Jesus looming large, with Mykhalo Mudryk hoping to muscle his way into Arteta’s attacking arsenal, time is always running out for back-up strikers.

Nketiah harried and hustled in attack but was unable to cause Newcastle’s defence problems

The only real chance he was this strike in the second half that was saved by Nick Pope (right)

Even one with three goals in three games, boasting a record of 11 goals in 11 starts at home, whose all-round game has come on so much since that trip to Tyneside. 

For players like Nketiah, what you don’t do always matters more.

There have been defining periods already this season, of course, which were meant to expose frailties in Arteta’s squad. Instead, those spells have tended only to underline the grit and frightening potential of this side. 

Tuesday night came the start of yet another one that should tell us something. Manchester City visit next month. Tuesday night, it was the division’s meanest defence. No Premier League goalkeeper has amassed more clean sheets this season than Pope.

Early on here, however, it seemed Arsenal would score in no time as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli caused havoc from both wings.

During a tense first half, the striker was booked for a foul to the annoyance of the Gunners

Nketiah played a supporting role of tireless runs, and even self-sacrifice. He took a clattering from Sven Botman in exchange for setting Saka off on another charge.

It took nearly a quarter of an hour for the first burst of his own. And in a match that descended into physical tit-for-tat, Nketiah provided a rare moment of cuteness.

With his back to goal, and some deft body movement, he sold his marker a dummy and spun into space. Nketiah drove towards the box, deceived another defender out of the game and picked out a Granit Xhaka, who squandered the chance. Beyond that, this proved a difficult night of scraps and scrappy challenges. 

Despite Arsenal dominating the ball, Nketiah managed just 21 touches in the first half – only one Arsenal outfield player had fewer. The second half brought little more joy. 

His hard work didn’t go unnoticed as his name rang around the Emirates but neither he, nor Arsenal, did enough to prevent those inevitable questions: what could have been? Or who else?

Nketiah was still supported by his manager Mikel Arteta throughout the game despite no goals

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