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Paul Merson: 'Eddie Nketiah wouldn't start for Fulham'

Paul Merson: 'Eddie Nketiah wouldn't start for Fulham'
© Reuters
Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson slams the club's decision to extend Eddie Nketiah's contract and claims the striker would not even start for Fulham.

Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson has questioned the Gunners' decision to hand Eddie Nketiah a new deal and has claimed that the 23-year-old would not start for Fulham.

During Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette's time in North London, Nketiah consistently struggled for opportunities at the tip of the Arsenal attack.

The 23-year-old was expected to leave as a free agent at the end of June, but he ended the 2021-22 season as Mikel Arteta's first-choice striker and hit five goals in seven Premier League matches.

Arsenal ultimately elected to open contract talks with Nketiah, who committed himself to a new five-year deal worth a reported £100,000 per week earlier this month and has been handed the number 14 shirt.

However, ex-Gunner Merson has blasted Arsenal's decision to extend Nketiah's stay and believes that the England Under-21 international would only be good enough for the bench at Craven Cottage.

Paul Merson for Paul Merson: Football, Gambling and Me© BBC

"All Arsenal have got up front right now is Eddie Nketiah, who recently signed a new contract when it looked like he might leave," Merson told the Daily Star.

"And no disrespect to Nketiah but Mikel Arteta must realise he won't get you into the top four. Absolutely no chance. That's a fact.

"Nketiah can't be spearheading your Champions League push. He's not getting in ahead of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison at Everton and they almost got relegated.

"He's not getting in at Fulham ahead of Aleksandar Mitrovic and they've only just been promoted. I'm not having a go at him but he's not getting you top four."

Nketiah ended the 2021-22 season with 10 goals in all competitions and has now amassed a total of 23 strikes and two assists in 92 outings for his boyhood club.

Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring their first goal on April 6, 2022© Reuters

Meanwhile, Fulham talisman Mitrovic enjoyed a phenomenal 2021-22 season in the Championship with 43 strikes in 44 second-tier games to help the Cottagers achieve promotion back to the big time.

The 27-year-old has also struck 24 Premier League goals in 104 games for Newcastle United and Fulham, but he only found the back of the net three times in the 2020-21 top flight.

Nketiah's new deal will not prevent Arsenal from trying to sign a new striker ahead of the 2022-23 season, and a £45m fee has allegedly now been agreed with Manchester City for the transfer of Gabriel Jesus.

The 25-year-old is seemingly set to snub interest from Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Juventus to reunite with former Man City assistant Arteta and is expected to become Arsenal's highest earner with a contract in excess of £200,000 per week.

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