Mikel Arteta seems to have a solution for every eventuality so early in his managerial career. Getting a 2-1 win out of this West Ham-dominated match is one example and now he is ready to solve his next ‘striker crisis’ just days after persuading captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to commit to his long-term quest for Arsenal success.
Goalscorer Alex Lacazette is the next one on the agenda with transfer interest in the French forward intensifying as he has less than two years to run on his contract. Match-winner Eddie Nketiah is Arteta’s oven-ready answer. The England U21 skipper came off the bench to win this match late on after Michail Antonio’s equaliser to Lacazette’s opener against the run of play.
Arsenal are unlikely to throw another big-money deal at a 29-year-old forward, who they could secure a decent transfer fee for and especially when Arteta rates Nketiah so highly. Nketiah turned only 21 at the end of May and is a level off his more accomplished, senior team-mate but Arteta sees him as a player who could develop into a top-level forward.
He sharply dismissed a line of questioning that Nketiah could be his super-sub to win matches such as this when he said afterwards: “He can play in a starting role as well.
“He has shown that every time I have given him the opportunity he has performed really well. He has natural goalscoring ability. On top he has the good education he got from our academy to find the right position, also the goalscoring intuition and the ability to put the ball in the net.
“And he is aggressive. I am delighted to have that threat in the box and we have to use him.”
Either way, it is crucial for Arteta’s top-four aspirations to see players other than Aubameyang get Arsenal over the line in matches they might not previously have won, or even drawn.
“We know we need to share the goals much better and produce as a team if we want to fight with the top teams,” Arteta added. “Everyone has to take responsibility.”
As highly as Arteta rates Lacazette, it seems clear Arsenal will find it hard to turn down a bid from interest clubs such as Juventus or Atletico Madrid, especially if Atleti offer midfielder Thomas Partey as part of any deal.
There are no imminent contract talks planned for a player who cost Arsenal around €50m when he signed from Lyon three years ago, but Arteta conceded a repeat of the Aubameyang saga and final season negotiations could be unavoidable for any player at the club.
He explained: “We can try to avoid these situations but, unfortunately, it will happen and that is inevitable.”
Arsenal have already sold outstanding keeper Emi Martinez, despite the return of Bernd Leno hardly inspiring confidence, and Lacazette could find himself moved on to raise funds along with midfielder Lucas Torreira in coming weeks.
Arteta established himself as a player in 174 games at Everton under West Ham counterpart David Moyes, who can only dream of having the problems his former pupil faces. The Scot has got his side playing well again, but they urgently need more quality in defence and attack to avoid another long relegation battle.
A centre half, particularly Burnley’s James Tarkowski, is a priority, but expectations are not high. In what sounded more like a letter of explanation to the club’s hard to please supporters, he explained: “Ultimately I want to sign three or four players, but totally understand if we are not in a situation to do so.
“I have a group of players who believe what we can do and want to show how well they can play. But we can only go step by step. First we get out of trouble and now I want us to become a team competing much higher in the league. This match was a good sign we can achieve that, but it’s no good if you don’t win.”
Next up for West Ham is the distraction of a League Cup tie at home to League One Hull tomorrow, while Arteta coudl give a debut to French central defender William Saliba when Arsenal go to Leicester in the same competition Wednesday.
ARSENAL: Leno 5, Bellerin 6, Holding 5, Gabriel 5, Kolasinac 4, Saka 7 (Luiz 89), Xhaka 6, Ceballos 6, Willian 6 (Pepe 64), Lacazette 7 (Nketiah 77), Aubameyang 6.
Subs: Macey, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Willock.
WEST HAM: Fabianski 6, Fredericks 7, Diop 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 7, Soucek 7, Rice 6, Bowen 6 (Yarmolenko 83), Masuaku 7 (Anderson 90), Fornals 6 (Haller 88), Antonio 7.
Subs: Randolph, Balbuena, Lanzini, Johnson.
Referee: Michael Oliver 5.