Eddie Nketiah has suggested that he can be an effective replacement for Alexandre Lacazette if the latter leaves Arsenal at the end of the season. The Frenchman has been linked with a premature exit from the Emirates Stadium in recent weeks amid reports that his relationship with boss Mikel Arteta has deteriorated since the beginning of the season.
Lacazette remains under contract until next summer but could be shipped out before then if he fails to agree fresh terms with the Gunners.
Juventus are among the sides to have been linked with the 29-year-old this month, as well as Atletico Madrid, who tried to secure his services in 2017 before losing out to Arsenal.
Nketiah, who will captain England’s under-21 side during the group stage of this year’s European Championships in Hungary and Slovenia, has hinted that he is capable of stepping into Lacazette’s shoes in the event of his team-mate’s departure.
The Lewisham native has rarely featured under Arteta this season, playing just 319 minutes in the Premier League since the start of the campaign.
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He admitted that it has been difficult to watch the Gunners from the sidelines in recent months, but stressed that he is working hard in anticipation of a fresh opportunity to impress, which could arrive if Lacazette is sold.
“It has been difficult, I have not played as much as I would have liked,” said Nketiah.
“I have worked hard and stayed dedicated and that has added to the frustration. It is a part of football but one that you don’t want to be involved in.
“I believe in my ability, so obviously I think I am capable of playing and helping the team. So obviously it is frustrating not playing, but you have to channel that frustration in a good way, use your time wisely to work hard and prepare for when that opportunity arises.”
Nketiah has been one of the brightest prospects to graduate from Arsenal’s famous Hale End academy in recent seasons.
Since making his senior debut under Arsene Wenger in the Europa League four years ago, he has scored 12 times in 60 appearances for the Gunners, with his most recent goal coming in the 4-2 win over Dundalk back in December.
He is also England’s all-time top scorer at under-21 level, breaking Alan Shearer’s long-standing record with a late goal against Turkey in October.
When quizzed on being handed the captain’s armband by Aidy Boothroyd ahead of this summer’s tournament, Nketiah revealed that he is aiming to lead the Young Lions to great things, thanking his international boss for helping him to progress and regularly checking up on him while out in the cold at Arsenal.
“I am grateful to have this opportunity to play at this tournament, to express myself and have fun, get a smile on my face again and play football,” added Nketiah.
“I want to do everything I can to help the team do something special.
“Aidy has checked in on me. I’m really grateful to have that support. It shows what a great person he is, not just as a coach, but as a person.
“When I’m not in the squad, I’m working hard, training like I always would. You get some more time to work on specifics. I’ve been trying to use my time wisely.”