Sports News of Saturday, 2 January 2021
Eddie Nketiah credits Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa with making him a better player for Arsenal despite enduring a difficult loan spell at Elland Road that led to him being recalled to Emirates Stadium.
The highly-rated England U21 international linked up with the Whites at the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
His potential was embraced by Leeds, but the form of Patrick Bamford and Bielsa’s penchant for fielding a solitary frontman left the youngster feeling frustrated on the sidelines.
A season-long deal was eventually cut short, with Mikel Arteta welcoming the promising striker back into his plans.
Nketiah took in just 19 appearances for Leeds across all competitions, including only two Championship starts, but he believes experience outside of north London has benefitted him.
“I’m grateful for my time at Leeds,” the 21-year-old told talkSPORT.
“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 is seeing another loan move mooted with the January transfer window open, as he struggles for starts in 2020-21, but Arteta is showing faith in youth and chances are expected to come his way at some stage.
“It’s great to see the young players that are playing at the moment doing so well,” Nketiah added.
“B [Bukayo Sako] is doing well, Emile [Smith Rowe] 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.”