Eddie Nketiah says it was “almost impossible” to leave Arsenal after he was given a run of games in the Premier League towards the back end of last season.
The England U21 international’s contract at the Emirates Stadium was due to expire following the end of the 2021-22 season, making him available for a free transfer, and the Gunners were unable to secure fresh terms with the striker prior to the end of the season.
Nketiah’s future looked set to lie away from north London until his 90 minutes against Southampton in April, his first Premier League start of the season, and he struck a brace four days later in a 4-2 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Mikel Arteta would stick with the Hale End academy graduate for the remainder of the season, as he started the final eight games of the Gunners’ Premier League campaign and struck five goals – with only Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min scoring more in the same timeframe.
While Nketiah’s future was unresolved during this period, the young striker has made it clear that Arteta’s faith in him gave him an easy decision to make.
“Everyone knows how much I love Arsenal. I have come through the academy, I have the attachment with the club,” he told the Telegraph.
“The manager was very supportive and pushed a lot for me to stay. Once I had those kinds of assurances, and no doubts that I will get opportunities to play next season, it was almost impossible for me to leave.
“That run [of matches] really helped me. It gave me the feeling I always wanted, that I have craved. That feeling of playing well, doing well, scoring. It helped me with my decision and made it a lot clearer.
“Experiencing that with my family, we knew this is the place to be. There is nothing quite like doing well for the club you support and love.”
Nketiah’s new contract also sees him take Arsenal’s famous number 14 shirt, previously worn by all-time record scorer Thierry Henry, but he does not believe it comes with additional pressure.
“We know it is a special shirt and Thierry has made it cool to wear this shirt, just like he did with long socks and gloves,” he added.
“It is what we have grown up with. But I am just trying to be the best version of myself. I’m focused on creating my own memories in that shirt, leaving my own stamp on it.
“You still have to deliver. There is always going to be pressure, whether you are wearing number 30, or 14, or whatever, because that is what comes with playing for Arsenal.”
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