As Arsenal mulled what to do with Tyreece John-Jules the spectre of their error over Eddie Nketiah loomed large in their thinking.
In the summer of 2019 Arsenal were thinking long and hard about the right steps for Nketiah, who was in danger of atrophying on the fringes of their first team. They conducted as extensive an auditioning process as any club had known for one of their top talents, whittling them down to a top three that included Eintracht Frankfurt, Leeds United and Bristol City.
And then they fumbled the decision. Nketiah went to the best and brightest the Championship had to offer and could not get a start. It took the youngster 143 days to earn a start in Marcelo Bielsa’s league side and just 46 days to figure in Mikel Arteta’s XI.
Arsenal had inserted punitive clauses in their loan agreement with Leeds that would cost the Whites severely if Nketiah did not regularly feature from the outset. It was a price that they were prepared to pay if Bielsa believed that Patrick Bamford was the right man to spearhead a promotion challenge. What price a few hundred thousand extra to the Gunners if you would soon be joining them in the top flight?
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It meant that Arsenal were not learning what they needed to discover about Nketiah. They knew from their own experience that he could be a super sub, what they wanted to see was how he fared starting games week in, week out.
Nketiah’s quality was never in question, something he proved on his return to the Arsenal first team, where he scored four goals and began to establish himself as a real rival for Alexandre Lacazette. In the end 2019/20 proved to be a resounding success for the 21-year-old but it could very easily have turned out very differently.
Arsenal would not want to take the same chance again with John-Jules. He may lack the same experience Nketiah had when he went to Leeds but hopes…