Arteta, Saka thrilled as Nketiah rises to challenge of replacing Jesus

December 27, 2022


Mikel Arteta and Bukayo Saka were overjoyed after Eddie Nketiah made a promising start to his spell deputising for the injured Gabriel Jesus in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over West Ham.

The Premier League leaders returned to top-flight action on Boxing Day following the World Cup, aiming to pick up where they left off prior to the tournament.

Many had written off their title chances as a result of Jesus sustaining a knee injury in Qatar that will rule him out for three months.

But Monday’s win will ensure they are seven points clear at the summit at least until Manchester City play Leeds United on Wednesday.

Nketiah more than played his part in the victory, scoring Arsenal’s third goal as they came from behind in the second half.

Saka, who netted the Gunners’ equaliser, was thrilled for his fellow Arsenal youth product after silencing the doubters.

Asked about Arsenal spreading the goals around the team, Saka told Prime Video: “That’s definitely important.

“Obviously Gabby [Jesus] is going to be a big miss, but you could see I’m so happy for Eddie.

“I feel like we all believed in him, that’s all he needs, us to just keep supporting him. He got his goal and that will give him a lot of confidence, so we just need to keep encouraging him.

“Of course, then we’ve got me, Gabby [Gabriel Martinelli], Granit [Xhaka], Martin [Odegaard], even the centre-backs are chipping in on the goals, so everyone is going to be so important.”

Nketiah’s goal was greeted by jubilant celebrations, with the delight in Saka’s voice after the game very much present in those scenes.

Arteta was just as elated and hopes this goal on what was his first Premier League start of the season helps Nketiah kick on.

“I just gave him a big hug because he deserved that, he totally earned it with the way he played,” Arteta added.

“It was a very typical Eddie Nketiah goal. He showed his strength, quality and timing, the composure of the finish. For me, it was an outstanding performance from him.

“You could feel in the last few games he’d been trying but didn’t score, even in friendlies, but he has the capacity to do that. We see it every day in training, and that will give him confidence.

“He showed it last year, at the end of last season when we played him more consistently… when you look at his numbers, they are really, really good. I am really pleased to see what he’s done today.”

But while Jesus will seemingly be missing from the pitch until at least February, Saka credited the Brazilian for having a strong off-field influence.

The same has been said of Oleksandr Zinchenko, who also joined Arsenal from Manchester City in pre-season, and Arteta is adamant the pair have brought more than just quality on the pitch.

“They’ve been in probably the most successful team the Premier League has seen for many, many years,” he said.

“They have the belief in their team-mates and what we are doing, that we are able to play to those standards, and these guys have brought this confidence to the team.”