love appreciate tolerate Eddie Nketiah as well as any of us, but it’s becoming more and more clear that the real solution to our woes at centre-forward is above his pay-grade, not to mention his ability. Yes, he put three past Sheffield United and passed on a chance at four, but all that really means is that 60% of his goals this season came against a side already inked in for relegation. Someday, he might prove his critics wrong. Until then, I say we saddle up and ride Trossard. Wait. That came out wrong…or did it? His goal against Sevilla should remind us of what he brings to the table—and why he’s superior to Nketiah in so many ways.
I do want Nketiah to succeed here on so many levels. He’s not just a Hale End lad; he seems to have his head screwed on right. Remember that Arsenal: All or Nothing moment when he sent Lokonga to the shadow-realm, saying, “you think you’re the only one not playing? Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” It’s a snapshot to be sure, but it seems to capture a player who wants to fight for a spot. Sadly, he’s not quite good enough to earn that spot even in Jesus’s absence. In an ideal world, we loan him to a side like Crystal Palace or West Ham where he can play regularly in order to develop. Given our ambitions and our levels, he’s just not ready.
Trossard, by contrast, offers something roughly similar to what Jesus brings. They’re both undersized to play as strikers or centre-forwards, but they compensate for that through deft movement, interplay, and technique. Nketiah, at this point, can’t dribble an opponent. Trossard and Jesus can. Trossard is also comfortable drifting wide (usually to the left) and is enough of a threat that he drags defenders out of position. Defenders seem to sense that Nketiah, the fox in the box that he is, really only threatens to score from within eight yards, notwithstanding a speculative strike from distance against Sheffield United. In other words, once Nketiah leaves the box, he’s no longer all that foxy. Trossard seems just as lethal from outside that box as he is from inside it.
One statistical anomaly that does raise eyebrows is the fact that Saka has been credited with assists on no less than four of Trossard’s five goals. There’s an unquestionable chemistry there; the two clearly understand each other in invaluable ways. Their celebration after Trossard’s goal against Sevilla had nothing to do with outward-looking, look-at-me celebrations; it was a more-genuine “you understand me” moment. They’ve clearly been talking about their connection. They’ve clearly enjoyed that connection. Why not put Trossard in a position to strengthen that connection?
As for Nketiah, I don’t mean to shunt him off to the side. It’s a shame we’ve crashed out of the League Cup; he might have gotten some valuable minutes. On the other hand, we’re so close to winning our Champions League group that he could get some valuable minutes in our two remaining matches. In the long run, though, it’s probably best for his development and his career to go out on loan, ideally to a Prem side that will let him lead the line, or at least something close to it. I say so with a tinge of regret because the lad has shown that he’s willing to put his nose to the grindstone without complaint. Two or three years ago, that might have been enough to give him the nod.
We have higher aspirations now. Trossard seems like he’s up to the challenge of meeting those aspirations, if not elevating them. Nketiah? We can see the desire, the drive, the determination.What we can’t quite see is the deadliness.