Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says Eddie Nketiah has a future at the club after he scored to help the Gunners see off Leeds United and reach the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
Substitute Calum Chambers’ header crept over the line seconds after he came off the bench, before former Leeds loanee Nketiah pounced to wrap up the tie.
The forward cleverly flicked the ball over a stranded Illan Meslier and just did enough to nudge it over the line before the visiting keeper could recover.
“I have full belief that he is going to be a top, top player and hopefully at Arsenal,” said Arteta, who has helped develop a number of young Arsenal players, including Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka.
“I’m happy to have him, he is our player, I regard him really highly and from my side I want him to stay.”
Leeds had looked the more threatening side until the first goal in an open and entertaining game against a much-changed Arsenal side at Emirates Stadium.
But Arteta’s outfit were comfortable after establishing their lead as the visitors became stretched looking for a way back into the game, with Nketiah impressing.
The 22-year-old, who was linked with a move to Crystal Palace in the summer, was making only his second appearance this term and is out of contract at the end of the season.
“We had a situation in the summer that we tried to resolve and we couldn’t either way,” said Arteta. “That contract situation is more and more common in football where we are coming from with Covid and a lot of the issues that we have to resolve.
“I have no doubts what he can offer. Whatever you throw at him, he wants more and he demands himself more.
“I’m delighted to see his performance. He totally deserved it. He has other players who play in that position and he has a personal situation but I try to leave that aside.”
Arsenal, hoping to win the competition for first time since 1993, will find out their last-eight opponents in Saturday’s draw.
Gunners maintain unbeaten run
VAR may not have been in use but Arsenal’s opener still felt like it took an age to register as all eyes were fixed on referee Andre Marriner to see whether the ball had crossed the line.
The official glanced at his watch, gave the signal that Chambers’ header had squeezed in despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Meslier and the hosts’ delayed celebrations began.
Chambers ran to embrace Arsenal’s set-piece coach Nicolas Jover, who told the substitute he would score with his first touch of the ball while he was waiting to come on.
Jover was proved correct, just 23 seconds after Chambers entered the field as a replacement for £50m defender Ben White, who had limped off moments earlier.
Arteta said afterwards White was suffering from a bug, having been one of just two players to keep their place following Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa last Friday, the other being the lively Emile Smith Rowe.
The Arsenal boss called on those coming into the starting XI to use their minutes wisely and young forward Nketiah did that by continuing his prolific form in the competition.
The forward grabbed his seventh goal in eight EFL Cup appearances, two of those coming while on loan at Leeds, when he reacted to a mix up in the visitors’ defence to score the second.
“It’s always nice to play, it’s been a while, I have been working hard, waiting for my opportunity. The most important thing was to get through,” he said afterwards.
Arteta has already tasted success at Arsenal, winning the FA Cup as a player and coach, and the recent signs are encouraging for the Spaniard as his side made it eight games without defeat.
Leeds have not won away against Arsenal since 2003 at Highbury and that wait goes on, but they were buoyed by a vocal travelling support and enjoyed the best of the first half.
Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno had to get down quickly to palm Jack Harrison’s fierce half-volley away and Daniel James proved a constant threat, but Bielsa’s focus now returns to the Premier League and a trip to Norwich City on Sunday.