Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta explains why Eddie Nketiah starts over Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli against Newcastle

Eddie Nketiah starts up front for Arsenal at home to Newcastle
Eddie Nketiah starts up front for Arsenal at home to Newcastle (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta says he ‘trusts’ Eddie Nketiah’s ability in front of goal after naming the youngster in his starting XI over Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli at home to Newcastle.

The Gunners kept hold of Nketiah after his loan spell with Leeds in the first half of the season and the 20-year-old forward scored on his return as Arteta’s men beat Bournemouth to reach the FA Cup fifth round.

Nketiah then came off the bench as Burnley held Arsenal to a goalless draw before the winter break, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lacazette and Martinelli starting in attack at Turf Moor.

Arsenal captain Aubameyang has kept his place in Arteta’s starting XI for Sunday’s clash with Newcastle, but Lacazette and Martinelli start on the substitutes bench at the Emirates.

Dani Ceballos, who has returned to full fitness following a frustrating hamstring injury, starts for the first time under Arteta and the Spaniard plays alongside Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka in midfield.

Asked about his surprise decision to select Nketiah up front with Aubameyang, Arteta told Sky Sports: ‘He’s been training really well. He’s a kid who has a goal in him.

‘I believe we have a game ahead with a really low block and numbers behind the ball.

‘He’s a very talented player to find goals in goalscoring situations and I trust him, that’s why I decided to keep him.’

Martinelli and Lacazette start on the substitutes bench at the Emirates
Martinelli and Lacazette start on the substitutes bench at the Emirates (Picture: Getty)

On his decision to start Ceballos, Arteta added: ‘Dani needed to pick his fitness up after the injury but he’s been training really, really well and he deserves his chance.’

Asked about Mateo Guendouzi’s absence, the Spaniard simply replied: ‘It was a tactical decision.’

Ceballos starts for the first time under Arteta
Ceballos starts for the first time under Arteta (Picture: Getty)

Arteta has called on his players to bring energy to the field and press the opposition as a unit at the Emirates.

‘I think we have to generate some defensive stability, but not by defending deep. I don’t like that,’ he said.

‘It’s by defending high and pressing the opponent as much as possible. But the process – together as many times as possible in the most efficient way – has to be done properly from here.

‘If not, in two passes when you arrive there, that transition is impossible to control because you are too far from the opponent.

‘So we need to do that well first to be able to generate and sustain our attacks as many times as possible during the games.’

Aubameyang has warned his team-mates about the ‘threat’ of Newcastle winger Allan Saint-Maximin, a player he knows well from their time together at Saint-Etienne.

‘Newcastle are a solid side. I expect them to play quite deep so we will need to find a way of unlocking their back five,’ he said in Arsenal’s official matchday programme.

‘But also be careful not to give them too much space on the counter, especially if Allan Saint Maximin is playing.

‘He is a threat. I know him very well as he was at the Saint-Etienne academy when I was at the club. He used to come and train with us in the first team. He has great skills and pace too.

‘But we are home and we have the belief that we will win with 1,000% commitment and motivation.’

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