Eddie Nketiah - adapting to Marcelo Bielsa's methods, the lure of Leeds United and why he doesn't set goals

Leeds United loanee Eddie Nketiah celebrates at Salford City on Tuesday evening.Leeds United loanee Eddie Nketiah celebrates at Salford City on Tuesday evening.
Leeds United loanee Eddie Nketiah celebrates at Salford City on Tuesday evening.
When Leeds United identified Eddie Nketiah as the man they wanted to fill their goalscoring void they were behind the eight ball.

Over 25 clubs had shown an interest in the Arsenal academy product this summer, and Bristol City were so confident of landing his signature that they booked him in for a medical at Ashton Gate.

Victor Orta, though, made haste as he travelled to North London to argue what Leeds could bring to Nketiah and what Nketiah could bring to Leeds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After a long presentation, and a quiet word with old friend Unai Emery, a season-long loan deal was struck for the highly-rated forward.

“It was flattering to have a lot of interest across Europe,” Nketiah revealed.

“I feel like the project here and the manager, it was a big push for me. Wanting to help the team, playing with that pressure and the style of play. They try to go about it the ‘right way’.

“They try to play football and it’s high intensity, which I think is good for my game. The history of the club was a big pull and the fans, it was a good decision in the end, I think.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Arsenal rate Nketiah as a future first-team star. Emery does too. Comparisons are already rife with club legend Ian Wright, who is something of a mentor to the forward.

Nketiah featured throughout pre-season for Arsenal, and has already seen minutes in the Premier League and Europe.

The Gunners head coach was initially reluctant to let him leave the Emirates this summer – an indicator of just how high his stock really is – believing he could offer him ample game time despite strong competition for places.

Nketiah, though, made his feelings clear over wanting regular football and, after being convinced of the long-term benefits, the Spaniard granted his blessing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Obviously I know the history and tradition of the club,” he said.

“It’s a big club, coming from Arsenal I’m used to being at a big club so there’s that bit more expectation and pressure. I think I can thrive off it and, hopefully, I can just continue to work hard and try and help the team as best I can.”

It took just 43 minutes for Nketiah to introduce himself to the travelling fans on Tuesday. He tapped home from close range to round off a lovely team move as Salford City were dispatched with ease.

“I try to work hard for the team and put in a good performance,” he continued.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s my first game so it’ll take me a while to adjust to the team but it’s nice to get on the end of a cross.

“I think the fans were excellent. It’s always nice to have them sing your name and to take to me that quickly is really heartwarming and what they can expect is that I will give my all, 100 per cent.

“I can see that they respect that here and I’ll continue to try and do that and, hopefully, that relationship can continue to grow.”

Nketiah’s first impressions are right. Fans are demanding in West Yorkshire, but his new manager is too. Marcelo Bielsa’s regime is known to be gruelling, some thrive while others struggle to adapt.

“I think I’ve got a bit of legs on me,” he smirked.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Marcelo, he loves to run. He loves fitness and a high-intensity game so, obviously, I can adapt to that and play with that.

“I feel like running in behind is one of my strengths so, hopefully, I can fit in and get up to speed with all the boys.

"I think it’s good for a young player coming into the team to have that constant demand on you and to make sure you’re at it 100 per cent every day. He can only improve you and help you for the future.

“There is a lot of tactics to learn. And there’s a lot of things to learn from the manager, but I feel the players have helped me. They’ve really taken to me and comforted me. It’s like a little family here, which has helped my transition.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kemar Roofe’s departure to Anderlecht last week came quickly, as did Nketiah’s move to LS11. Bielsa has already said he won’t be comparing the two, but Roofe leaves a goalscoring void that cannot be ignored.

The Lewisham-born forward, though, isn’t putting any heavy demands on himself – just yet.

“I like to take things step by step,” he admitted.

“My main goal is to obviously develop as a player and just push myself to the limit and see how well I can do here.

“I want to help the team reach their goals, I think that’s the most important thing. To try and fit in. Along the way I’ll set little goals, but I just take each game as it comes.”