Arsenal Loanee Eddie Nketiah Will Provide Reason For Elland Road To Sing This Year

Leeds have snapped the striker up on loan for the 2019/20 Championship season
13:32, 28 Aug 2019

Eyebrows were raised when Leeds United cashed in on Kemar Roofe earlier this month, his £6.5million move to Anderlecht coming after Pontus Jansson had been sold to Brentford for a similarly hefty fee.

Roofe top-scored for Marcelo Bielsa's side last season, netting fifteen times as they finished third in their best campaign for years.

Roofe thrived under Bielsa, benefiting as much as anyone from a gruelling pre-season which saw players pushed to the limit by their Argentinian head coach.

The former Oxford United striker won the Championship Player of the Month for August following his blistering start to the campaign and kept Patrick Bamford - at £11million Leeds' biggest arrival since Robbie Fowler in 2001 - out of the side.

Roofe scored some memorable and indeed vital goals last season; the deadly double which downed Derby at Pride Park in the second week of the season, the dramatic 95th-minute winner at Aston Villa which put Leeds top at Christmas.

On Boxing Day, he repeated the trick with two late strikes which gave Leeds a 3-2 home victory over Blackburn Rovers. Roofe missed eight games with a knee ligament injury between February and April but returned to action and scored the winner in Leeds' play-off semi-final first leg win at Derby.

The strike, a clinical finish from Jack Harrison's delightful cross from deep, underlined Roofe's importance to Leeds but he missed the second leg with a calf injury as Derby claimed a 4-2 win to progress 4-3 on aggregate.

All in all, it was the best season of Roofe's career so his sudden departure, coming as it did with the player entering the final year of his contract and Leeds under pressure to meet Financial Fair Play requirements, understandably led to supporters demanding he be suitably replaced.

A 20-year-old loanee from Arsenal was perhaps not what many had in mind, but in Eddie Nketiah, Leeds may have found the player who can help them return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence.

In just four appearances for Leeds, Nketiah has scored three times. He claimed the opening goal on his debut in a 3-0 win at Salford City in the League Cup.

Eight days later, Nketiah made his first league appearance for Bielsa's men, stepping off the bench in the 78th minute at home to Brentford. Within three minutes, his predatory instinct was clear to see as he tucked away Helder Costa's low cross to secure a precious 1-0 win for his new team.

As Nketiah wheeled away to roars of "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie" around Elland Road, Arsenal legend Ian Wright, a spectator in the crowd, filmed himself joining in the chants.
 

Nketiah further endeared himself to the Elland Road faithful when he scored his third goal for the club during Tuesday's League Cup tie at home to Stoke.

Leeds lost on penalties, but there was no shame in that.

Many of their first-choice players did not feature and it has to be remembered that Bamford is Bielsa's number-one striker - yet Nketiah is proving a very worthy addition to their squad.

In 197 minutes of first-team football for Leeds, he has scored three times to average a goal every 65.6 minutes. At this level, that is an impressive statistic.

Before heading north, Nketiah had a terrific pre-season with Arsenal, becoming the breakout star of their tour of the United States. 

He scored a late winner against Bayern Munich before netting twice more against Fiorentina. Leeds fought off competition from Bristol City and Fortuna Düsseldorf to sign Nketiah and have committed a substantial sum in wages and loan fee to secure his services this season. 

The relationship between The Whites' director of football Victor Orta and Arsenal manager Unai Emery, acquaintances from their time together at Sevilla, helped broker the deal.

Nketiah has the coveted knack of being in the right place at the right time but, pleasingly for Bielsa, he is not relying on the prodigious 20-year-old. Bamford has scored four times himself already this season and is in fine form, so Nketiah will, for the time being at least, be used largely as a substitute.

At Elland Road, under Bielsa's watchful gaze, his star should continue to rise.

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