Eddie Nketiah answers Arsenal critics to explain Thierry Henry decision amid new contract

Eddie Nketiah faced backlash from a handful of Arsenal supporters on social media after penning a new five-deal deal at the Emirates Stadium. As part of the new deal and a symbol of Mikel Arteta’s gratitude, the 23-year-old was granted the north London club’s iconic No. 14 shirt, which has been famously worn by Thierry Henry in the past.

The Hale End striker, who once looked destined to leave London Colney this summer, impressed late into the season and scored a flurry of goals after a succession of much-deserved Premier League starts. Nketiah quickly grew into a pivotal figure in the Arsenal side, leaving Edu no choice but to offer the striker a new deal.

He found the net five times in his final seven appearances of the campaign for the Gunners. While the majority of fans rejoiced in Nketiah extending his future at the club, a minority took to social media to vent their frustration.

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And, subliminally answering his critics, Nketiah has explained his reasoning behind taking the No. 14 shirt. Speaking to the Telegraph, the former England youth international said: “I joined the club at the age of 1. I wore 14 on loan at Leeds, and I even lived at No 14 at one point. When the opportunity came up to take it, it was hard to say no. I know what it means to the club and the fans. It’s a nice feeling, an iconic number.”

While Nketiah is by no means expected to fulfil the French icon’s legacy at Arsenal, the youngster is aware of the weight of expectancy that comes with the shirt number at the Emirates and is keen to continue his development. He added: “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.

“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.”

While Nketiah has penned a new deal at Arsenal, Arteta is still expected to be in the market for a centre-forward this summer following the departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. The north London outfit have been heavily linked with a move for the Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus and technical director Edu has held talks with the player’s representatives in recent months, football.london understands.

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