Eddie Nketiah probably could not believe his luck five minutes into Arsenal’s clash with Leeds United on Sunday, taking advantage of Illan Meslier’s gaffe early doors to put the home side 1-0 up.
Having watched Chelsea contrive to drop two points against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur pick one creditable one at Liverpool on Saturday, a fast start — cliche as it sounds — was what Mikel Arteta’s team needed.
Nketiah’s recognition of a profitable situation and willingness to act brought about the goal.
A closer look at his opener shows the forward was already on his toes before Luke Ayling played the pass to his goalkeeper, and the decision from the Leeds skipper prompted the Arsenal striker into harrying the French shot-stopper.
That strike was a credit to the centre-forward’s inclination to chase down lost causes and Sunday’s strike was not a one-off.
Nketiah has netted four Premier League goals since taking Alexander Lacazette’s spot in Arteta’s XI at Southampton, with three of those goals following errors from the opposition.
His first of two at Chelsea materialised after Andreas Christensen’s made a mess of a simple back pass and Sunday’s effort owed to his harrying of Meslier.
The striker’s second in that 4-2 success at Stamford Bridge came about after the ball bounced off Blues defenders who struggled to clear their lines and the Arsenal man finished with aplomb.
Whether that is a pattern with the in-form frontman is anyone’s guess but the signs suggest Spurs have to be wary of the 22-year-old, who has added goals to an attack that was crying out for a central striker to score following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s departure and Alexandre Lacazette’s struggles in that regard.
While the Frenchman’s pressing, link-up and combination play allowed Arteta’s wide attackers to flourish, Nketiah has the much-needed goals, finding the back of the net four times in five successive starts. For context, this is as many as the 30-year-old managed in 20 starts.
It remains to be seen if the ongoing run in the side convinces the young forward to renew his deal which expires this summer, but the promise of Champions League football at a club next term could sway the 22-year-old’s decision.
“It's amazing to be involved. Any player just wants to be playing and get the opportunities,” Nketiah told Sky Sports after Sunday’s brace over Jesse Marsch’s side. “I've worked hard throughout the season to make sure that I was ready when I got my chance.
“[It is] credit to my teammates for helping me play and do well. I'm just happy in the team.”
Arsenal have their fate in their hands with three games remaining, a situation they would have taken at the start of the season.
They have recovered from three straight defeats by Crystal Palace, Brighton & Hove Albion and Southampton (four defeats in five if fixtures from mid-March are considered) to rack up four victories on the trot heading into Thursday’s clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Recent history favours Antonio Conte’s side, who are unbeaten in the last seven corresponding fixtures, claiming five wins in that period.
This has prevented the Gunners from doing the double over their fierce rivals since 2013/14, with Spurs claiming three points in the last two seasons with another on Thursday seeing the home side match a record that was first set in 1961.
Nketiah is undoubtedly feeling the love from Gooners and delivering a decisive blow to the Lilywhites’ European dream will prompt even more enthusiastic praise.