Why Leeds United switched their focus from new Rangers signing Ryan Kent to Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah

Eddie Nketiah has a number of people to thank for his move from Arsenal to Leeds United and Jack Harrison is one of them.

By Graham Smyth
Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 6:28 pm
Eddie Nketiah has three goals for Leeds United since his loan move from Arsenal (Pic: Getty)
Eddie Nketiah has three goals for Leeds United since his loan move from Arsenal (Pic: Getty)

The performance of Whites winger Harrison in the season opener at Bristol City helped sway opinion at Elland Road when it came to a decision on who to sign, to strengthen their attacking options.

Liverpool's Ryan Kent was a target all summer long, having impressed last season on loan at Rangers.

Marcelo Bielsa was keen on the winger, who didn't play in a central role at Ibrox but did play in a narrow 4-3-3 and would cut inside to pick up loose balls. He was a major threat for Steven Gerrard and contributed substantially to the Scottish club's offensive output with six goals and nine assists.

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With Liverpool unwilling to sanction yet another loan - Kent has five on his CV to date - the 22-year-old was for sale only.

That appeared to put Leeds in the driving seat, although Rangers' interest in taking him back to Ibrox never went away.

Elland Road sources suggest Leeds got as far as an agreement over a fee, something in the region of £4m but rising to £7m.

And then came a change in heart.

Ryan Kent moved from Liverpool to Rangers last night, on the SPL's transfer deadline (Pic: Getty)

Step forward Nketiah, or rather, step forward Harrison.

The Manchester City loan player, one Bielsa felt certain he could cajole into improvements this season, had a very promising start at Bristol.

Other than his goal, he gave Leeds United an ever-available outlet on the left flank and showcased his pace and strength throughout the 3-1 victory.

Leeds began to think that a wide man wasn't such a priority after all, not with Pablo Hernandez starting the season with a customary wondergoal, Helder Costa bedding into Bielsa-ball and Jack Clarke waiting in the wings.

A striker, it was felt, would be a better use of the available funds, but Nketiah didn't suddenly appear on their radar as a brand new target at that very moment.

They did of course swoop in and snatch him from the outstretched hands of Lee Johnson and Bristol City, at what must have felt like the most inopportune time for a Robins outfit desperate to sign quality and close the gap on Leeds.

He was a player, however, the Whites had watched numerous times over the past year and Arsenal were aware of Leeds' interest in him - it just wasn't until the final week of the transfer window that Leeds entered the race for his loan signature.

Once they had muscled their way onto Arsenal's shortlist, Victor Orta impressed sufficiently with his pitch on behalf of Bielsa's Leeds and it was Nketiah, not Kent, who was unveiled on deadline day.

Some will, and have, said it was the cheaper option, but while loan deals are easier on the budget than permanent moves, players like Nketiah do not come cheap.

Leeds are adamant footballing reasons were behind their switch in focus and Nketiah has gone some way to justifying the decision with three goals in five games and a promising start to life on loan in the Championship.

Kent, meanwhile, has - after all - gone back to Ibrox to become a permanent fixture in light blue.

He's happy, Rangers are happy, Leeds are happy, Nketiah is happy and Leeds fans will be happy if the striker's goals help send them back to the promised land.

The early signs, Nketiah's pace, power, movement and finishing ability suggest that the late change in tack might just help steer Leeds in the right direction.

Even at the tender age of 20 he will know as well as the rest of us that it's never plain sailing and there's a long way to go.