Eddie Nketiah’s exit from Leeds United in January left the Yorkshire giants with quite the headache in the transfer market.
Although the 21-year-old started just two Championship matches for Leeds, Arsenal’s decision to recall him from his loan spell at Elland Road left Marcelo Bielsa short of options up front with Patrick Bamford left as the only recognised striker in the senior squad.
Leeds chased Che Adams but eventually signed Jean-Kevin Augustin, a player who made just three appearances off the bench before a controversial return to RB Leipzig.
Nketiah hit the ground running on his return to the Emirates and ended last season with four goals to his name in 17 appearances in both the FA Cup and the Premier League.
The England Under-21 goal machine actually started more Premier League matches after he returned to North London than he did in the Championship while on loan at Leeds.
Newcastle legend Alan Shearer has now spoken to Nketiah ahead of his return to Elland Road with Leeds hosting Arsenal in the league on Sunday afternoon.
And although Nketiah didn’t get the game-time he wanted at Leeds, the striker has been nothing but full of praise for Bielsa.
“Yeah, I would say he is [intense], to be fair!” Nketiah told Shearer in an interview on The Athletic website. “He’s very different, that’s the first thing I’d say. After coming through at Arsenal and Chelsea, I was used to training in a certain way and there was a lot of adapting to do, but I knew I would develop under Marcelo.
“Training was very intense. It was a lot of drills and structured work rather than free play. I’m sure that when I came back to Arsenal I was the fittest I’ve ever been and that shows in the way Leeds play. It’s so energy-based. He pushes each and every player each and every day to get the maximum out of them. There would be a lot of running, even when we got close to a game. It was great to get out of my comfort zone like that.
“There’s no doubt I would have liked to have played more minutes. There’s no hiding that, but at the same time I’m pleased with what I managed to do. To be in a testing environment like that, in an aggressive, energetic team that plays in the right way, was really good for me. It gave me a different mentality coming back to Arsenal. And Leeds as a whole is a great club, with that massive, passionate fanbase who eat, sleep, breathe football.”
Nketiah might not have started many games for Leeds but he still managed to come up with some big goals when the Whites needed them.
The young forward scored five goals in 19 appearances across all competitions for Leeds but, as mentioned, almost all of those appearances were as a substitute.
He came off the bench to score a winner against Brentford before scoring and assisting in a 2-0 win over Barnsley.
Nketiah also netted an equaliser off the bench against Preston.
Leeds might not have won promotion without Nketiah’s impact as a substitute but you can understand why Arsenal were not happy with his loan agreement.
Bielsa pushed the boat out to sign Nketiah by doing a PowerPoint presentation to beat off competition from other clubs.
But ultimately the agreement wasn’t what it seemed for Arsenal at the time.
Now, looking back, they might wish they left Nketiah to continue playing as a substitute for Leeds United in the Championship.
Who knows how that extra half-season under Bielsa would have helped the youngster?
In other Leeds United news, this Sky pundit claims Bielsa is facing pressure at Leeds.