Eddie Nketiah is living every young boy’s dream. On his Arsenal debut back in October, the 18-year-old came off the bench and scored twice to fire the Gunners to a 2-1 Carabao Cup victory over Norwich.
When FourFourTwo meets him at a Nike event in central London, he’s modeling the new England kit, which the Three Lions will wear at the World Cup in Russia this summer and he will pull on for the under-19 side at the European Championships in July.
More after the break
That’s not bad going for a teenager who doesn’t turn 19 until May – we caught up with the Arsenal prodigy to chat about his goalscoring debut, finishing sessions with Thierry Henry and admiration for Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil…
Eddie, you scored twice on your Arsenal debut in October – that’s not bad for an 18-year-old…
It was incredible to break into the first team and score two goals, an absolute dream come true. That night will be with me for the rest of my life, but now I want to cement my place in the first team and get more game time under my belt.
When did you find out you’d be involved for the game?
I’ve been training with the first team for a while, so I found out the day before the game that I’d be on the bench. I told my closest friends and family that there was a chance I could play and we all just prayed I’d get a chance.
What was going through your head when you were warming up?
I didn’t put any pressure on myself, I just thought ‘I’m going to try and make as big an impact as possible in the last five minutes.’ Luckily I got my chance.
What do you remember of the moment you came on?
It was amazing. The night had started off pretty badly, we were 1-0 down, but I was just focused on working hard and changing the game. To score within 15 seconds with my first touch and then score the winner was incredible.
Did you get the chance to celebrate your debut?
I was back in training the next day so there was no celebrating or anything like that. But inwardly, I was very proud, it tops it all. To score at a high level is what you aspire to do when you’re a young boy in the academy.
Who did you admire growing up?
I loved watching Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright. I’d watch their clips and try to copy them. Wright congratulated me after the game and I’ve done a lot of finishing work with Henry when he was coaching at the club.
What exactly did you work on?
We worked a lot on the classic Henry finish, opening up his body and side-footing it into the bottom right-hand corner. It’s priceless getting tips from someone like him.
How would you describe your style of play?
I’m an exciting player who likes to commit defenders, run in behind and score goals.
What’s the difference between academy and professional football?
It’s a lot faster at first team level, you have to think faster. But the quality of your team-mates is higher so that brings you on. Training in that environment has really improved my game because I’ve had to raise my level.
Did you notice a difference in quality in training?
When you play with the first team players, you see the quality and consistency of their touch and passing at first hand. That is what really brings you on. You understand how good you need to be and how much work you need to do.
Which players really impressed you?
I’d say Santi Cazorla. He is incredible on the ball and so good to watch. Ozil is another really good manipulator of the ball – those two are the best technically I think and really impressed me.
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