Eddie Nketiah reveals how Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa ‘made me stronger’ and says Arsenal youngsters ‘bring fresh air and energy’ to Mikel Arteta’s team January 2, 2021 – Posted in: Soccer
Arsenal youngster Eddie Nketiah has thanked Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa for helping making him a better and stronger player during his loan spell.
Nketiah moved to Elland Road in a season-long loan at the start of the previous campaign, but was recalled to north London in January after making just two league starts for the club and scoring five goals.
Bielsa was widely accused of not giving the youngster enough game time, as he made 19 brief appearances for the Whites.
But Argentine appeared to be a big fan of Nketiah’s, hailing him as ‘a complete player’ and making it clear he was not happy about him moving back to his parent club.
But, despite what could have been a quite frosty exit for the youngster, it appears Bielsa made quite an impression on Nketiah, who has credited Bielsa for transforming his game.
“I’m grateful for my time at Leeds,” said the 21-year-old, speaking exclusively to talkSPORT’s Faye Carruthers.
“Bielsa is a very demanding manager, so every day I was pushing myself to the limit in training, and I feel that mentality has stuck with me at Arsenal, to always give my all in training and in matches.
“I also learned a lot defensively off the ball with the way Leeds play, I learned a lot about the importance of pressing from the front, defending from the front and the impact it can have to the team and the way we play.
“I definitely learned a lot, I put myself out of my comfort zone which was a good thing for me, it’s made me a lot stronger mentally and has improved me as a player.
“I’m grateful for my time there.
“Obviously things worked out for me in the end with coming back to Arsenal, so I’m grateful for the experience I had and I feel like it made me a better player and a better person.”
Nketiah has come a long way since his return from Leeds, where he still picked up a Championship winners’ medal last season alongside one of the Gunners’ FA Cup win.
He has made 21 appearances for Arsenal this term, managing five goals and one assist.
It has been a difficult season so far for the Gunners but wins over Chelsea and Brighton have transformed the mood around the Emirates and eased the pressure on manager Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal’s upturn in form has been attributed to Arteta turning to the club’s young players to inject fresh energy into the previously flagging side, with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe earning high praise.
And Nketiah is happy to see his young team-mates take their opportunity to shine in the first-team.
“It’s great to see the young players that are playing at the moment doing so well,” the forward said.
“B [Bukayo Sako] is doing well, Emile [Rowe Smith] has come into the team and has done well too, it’s great to see everyone making an impact and working hard and showing their confidence.
“As young players I think we always try to bring that breath of fresh air, that energy and enthusiasm.
“I try to always play with a bit of freedom and confidence. Obviously the manager allows us to have that confidence by picking us and giving us that game time.
“It’s been great to see the young players do so well, so hopefully we can keep making an impact and keep helping the team.”
Arsenal travel to take on West Brom in the Premier League on Saturday, with LIVE and EXCLUSIVE commentary on talkSPORT, where another three points is surely the aim for the 13th placed Gunners.
And Nketiah is hoping to get some game time and help the north Londoners make it three wins on the trot and take another step up the table.
“It’s been great to get the last two wins in and it’s given us that confidence as a team,” he added.
“Obviously we’ll be looking to build on those results and hopefully we can go on a run now.
“Personally, I’m just making sure I’m ready if I get the opportunity to play on Saturday, that I can make my mark and contribute to the team.
“That’s what it’s all about, working hard, doing your best and contributing to getting the three points.
“It’s a team sport, a collective sport and we want to get three points to climb up the table to make the fass happy.
“So hopefully I can play on Saturday and contribute to that.”
West Brom vs Arsenal is LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on talkSPORT. Follow all the action on Game Day, Saturday January 2, kick off: 8:00pm