Danny Higginbotham has now warned Eddie Nketiah that he is causing Mikel Arteta a ‘bit of a problem’ following the forward’s performance as Arsenal beat Crystal Palace.

The 24-year-old opened the action at Selhurst Park while Arsenal await Gabriel Jesus’ return from knee surgery. Arteta has bet on Nketiah to lead the Gunners’ frontline in the Brazilian’s absence. The England U21 record goalscorer also hit home once against Nottingham Forest.

But Nketiah would not add to his goal against the Reds when the Gunners visited the Eagles. He also made way for Jorginho in the 79th minute as Arteta bid to restore his team’s control after Takehiro Tomiyasu’s red card. Nketiah also only played 73 minutes on the opening day.

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah in action against Crystal Palace
Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Why Pele Is Overrated.

Arteta is trusting Nketiah to lead Arsenal’s attack without Jesus

Nketiah scoring at home to Nottingham Forest was huge for the Arsenal product. He had not hit the back of a net since January. The Hale End graduate’s previous goal in any competition came against Manchester United. He scored twice in Jesus’ absence for nine for the season.

Arteta started Nketiah against the Red Devils like the Reds and Eagles while Jesus recovered from an injury. The 26-year-old suffered a medial collateral ligament injury that would need surgery at the Qatar World Cup in November. He did not return to full fitness before March.

Jesus is now on the sidelines again after feeling some discomfort in the knee that he injured while representing Brazil. He went back under the knife for a minor operation ahead of the 2023/24 Premier League term starting. It further gave Nketiah a chance to get in their team.

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah in action against Crystal Palace
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Nketiah may not have scored as Arsenal beat Crystal Palace but the 5 ft 8 forward won their penalty. Gabriel Martinelli reacted to the Englishman’s run to take a quick free quick, after which Sam Johnstone tripped Nketiah. Martin Odegaard would convert it for the only goal.

Arsenal may have taken the lead during the first half had Nketiah not spurned a chance that Declan Rice created. The forward was wasteful with the chances he enjoyed with his closest attempt hitting the woodwork. Arteta replaced Nketiah without him having a shot on target.

Higginbotham warns Nketiah he risks being a problem for Arteta

Now, Higginbotham has urged Nketiah to focus his football on stretching defences and not dropping deeper into Arsenal’s midfield. Otherwise, the striker risks becoming a problem for Arteta as he will take the spaces that Odegaard and co aspire to occupy behind their attack.

“I think Nketiah is key to it,” he said on Peacock, via quotes by the Express. “There’s a few clips that we’ve got from the first half where he’s sort of stretching the game. That’s what you want from him. At times when he’s dropping deep it becomes a little bit of a problem.

Arsenal players Declan Rice and Eddie Nketiah in action against Crystal Palace
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

“You see he drops deep here and okay, you can say that this is good play: he gets down the side, he gets in towards the penalty spot. He wanted a penalty, obviously it wasn’t going to be a penalty. And the other opportunities he got, as well, is him stretching the game.

“He’s looking on the last defender [and] gets in really well here. [He] hits the post and he has another opportunity where he does exactly the same thing. He’s looking around [and thinking], ‘can I play on the shoulder of the last defender?’ He does exactly that.

“That enables him to find space and he’ll be disappointed he wasn’t able to find the back of the net. But you need to see more of that, in my opinion. Because the problem is if you’re Nketiah and you’re dropping deep, all of a sudden you’re taking the space of [the midfield].”

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