Mikel Arteta admits he is concerned a lack of first-team exposure could be damaging the development of Eddie Nketiah.
The Arsenal striker has not featured for the Gunners since coming off the bench in the final minute of their goalless draw with Manchester United on January 30.
Nketiah, 21, has started just twice in the Premier League all season and amassed a total of 319 minutes in the league – scoring once.
While Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles moved out on loan in the winter transfer window to Newcastle and West Brom respectively, Nketiah stayed put but has seen his first-team opportunities dwindle as the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe shine.
England Under-21s’ record goalscorer did not even make the bench for Sunday’s 3-1 win at Leicester – but Arteta took responsibility for Nketiah’s lack of minutes and praised his attitude.
“This is one of the hazards to leave someone like Eddie out of the squad, but at the moment everybody has been fit and we have so many options up front,” he said.
“But it hurts as well because of how Eddie behaves and trains every day and because he’s a player from our academy, but he will have his chance.
“He needs to be patient and he’s showing no signs of lacking attitude or anything like that, it’s the complete opposite.
“He’s a joy to work with and he deserves minutes and if he doesn’t get it, it’s just my fault.”
Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had been deployed as a central striker of late, with Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli also ahead of Nketiah in the pecking order.
Arteta feels there is a risk Nketiah’s promising development could stutter due to his restricted chances at present.
Asked if a lack of minutes could stunt his development, Arteta replied: “Yes there is because he needs to play and we’ve been wanting to use him a little bit more on some occasions and we didn’t.
“To be fair, when he’s played, he’s played well, but at his age and for what he’s done the last two or three seasons, he needs more minutes.
“It’s something we have to talk about openly and make the right decision.”
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