Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah has insisted that he does not want to be seen as a replacement for Gabriel Jesus following his goal in the Gunners’ 3-1 win over West Ham United.
The 23-year-old can expect to lead the line for Mikel Arteta for the next couple of months after Jesus sustained a serious knee injury – which required surgery – at the World Cup.
Nketiah started in the number nine spot for Arsenal in their Premier League Boxing Day battle with West Ham, where Said Benrahma‘s penalty put the visitors a goal up at the break.
Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli turned the game on its head for Arsenal before Nketiah got in on the act, producing a lovely turn to evade the attention of Thilo Kehrer and finding the far corner.
Speaking to Amazon Prime after the match, Nketiah affirmed that he wanted to be seen as the best version of himself rather than Jesus’s deputy, saying: “I’m not here to replace him (Jesus).
“I want to be my own player, but we all wish him well. There’s pressure any time you play for Arsenal. I think all the boys were at it today, firing, and it was nice for me to come in and contribute.
“We were very dominant today, we were just lacking that final pass. But we kept going and once we got one we knew we’d get more because we could feel the atmosphere behind us.
“There’s a real unity and connection with the fans and we want to build on it. We want to keep pushing and finish as high as possible, and we’re in great form at the moment.”
Nketiah’s effort against the Hammers made it 11 goals in 11 Emirates starts for the 23-year-old, whose side now have a seven-point lead over Newcastle United at the top of the table.
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was in attendance for the first time since stepping down from his post in 2018, and Arteta – who also waxed lyrical about Nketiah – believes that the Frenchman chose the right day to come and watch his former side.
“He’s a really confident boy. If he had any doubts, hopefully this can give him more confidence in what he’s doing,” Arteta said of Nketiah at his post-game press conference.
“I thought his performance was really, really good and on top of that he scored a great goal. He needed it. Every striker needs it. As well for Eddie and the team I think it’s really important yes.
“He [Wenger] picked the right moment, a really special day because Boxing Day is a beautiful day to play football and I thought today the levels were what he deserved and hopefully he’ll like.
“Hopefully he’s going to leave here and be willing to spend more time with us and be more around us because he’s such a big influence for me personally in my career, the way I see the game, but as well for this football club.”
Arsenal, who now prepare to end 2022 away to Brighton & Hove Albion on New Year’s Eve, could have their lead at the top cut down to five points if Manchester City beat Leeds United on Wednesday night.
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