Talking Tactics

Nketiah must find some away form if he is to rival Gabriel Jesus

By Adrian Clarke 1 Nov 2023

Adrian Clarke compares Arsenal strikers' stats as the Gunners prepare to visit Newcastle

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 11.

Player analysis: Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal)

Nketiah has started as Arsenal’s centre-forward in eight of their 10 matches so far this season, but to usurp Gabriel Jesus as first-choice striker he needs to earn his manager’s full trust away from home.

Since the start of last season, eight of Nketiah’s nine league goals have arrived at home.

The 24-year-old’s last Premier League goal on the road was in the 4-2 success at Brighton & Hove Albion on New Year's Eve last season.

To date, he has never scored in more than one away match in a single season, finding the back of the net in just four of his 51 Premier League appearances outside of Emirates Stadium.

While Nketiah will be brimming with confidence after scoring a superb hat-trick against Sheffield United last weekend, he knows his output during Arsenal's travels must be better.

He will hope to make an impact at Newcastle United on Saturday. And in the continued absence of Gabriel Jesus, Mikel Arteta will certainly be reliant on Nketiah to deliver once again.

There is very little difference between the number of shots Nketiah takes on home and away, and surprisingly on a per 90-minute basis his Expected Goals (xG) tally is marginally higher on the road.

However, he is far less clinical in unfamiliar surroundings, missing a lot of the opportunities that he might have taken if he were playing in front of Arsenal’s home fans.

He is currently 3.8 goals behind his xG on the road since the beginning of 2022/23.

Nketiah stats home and away 23/24
  Home Away
Minutes played 1,022 733
Minutes/goal 127.70 733
Goals 8 1
xG 6.38 4.80
xG/90 0.56 0.59
Shot accuracy % 51.20 35.00
Conversion % 28.60 5.00

In what is expected to be a tight, competitive match at St James’ Park this weekend, chances might be at a premium.

To make an impression, Nketiah has to improve on his five per cent conversion rate since the start of last season in away matches.

How Nketiah compares with Gabriel Jesus

One of the key differences between Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus is the positions they occupy.

Nketiah stays between the width of the penalty box during the majority of his appearances.

He mixes up his runs in those areas, spinning in behind and coming short to leave space for others to sprint into. But there is very little lateral movement or interchanging with Arsenal’s wide forwards.

Nketiah touch map v Sheff Utd

Perhaps the best match to analyse when drawing comparisons with Gabriel Jesus is Arsenal’s dominant 4-0 win at home to PSV Eindhoven, when the Brazilian played as a central striker for 69 minutes.

Jesus touch map v PSV

As you can see, he spends far more time combining out on the left, regularly switching positions with Gabriel Martinelli or Leandro Trossard. Gabriel Jesus also drifts right too.

His movement is wilder, less predictable and arguably better suited to the fluid style of play the Gunners thrive on under Arteta.

He also leaves those central pockets of space between the lines emptier for the likes of Martin Odegaard or Kai Havertz to patrol.

Who’s the better finisher?

Gabriel Jesus has made just one Premier League start as a central striker for Arsenal this season, so it is unfair to judge him stats-wise over that small sample size.

But interestingly, the former Manchester City star has scored three goals in three appearances as a centre-forward in this season's UEFA Champions League group stage.

Taking the numbers back to the start of last season when Jesus joined the club, and including all competitions, we can see how he compares with his understudy Nketiah in key attacking metrics.

Remarkably, the two Gunners forwards have almost identical records.

Their shots, goals, Expected Goals, minutes per goal and conversion rates are incredibly similar, with Nketiah narrowly shading it as the more lethal finisher.

Nketiah v Jesus since the start of 22/23
  Nketiah Gabriel Jesus
Matches played 54 44
Minutes played 2,740 2,971
Touches in opp. box 7.10 9.60
Shots in box (inc. blocks) 2.90 3.20
Shots (inc. box) 3.40 3.40
Shots on target 1.10 1.50
Goals per 90 0.46 0.45
xG per 90 0.55 0.58
Mins/goal 196 198
Shot conversion % (exc. blocks) 18.20% 17.40%

There is a perception that Gabriel Jesus is not as natural in front of goal as Nketiah, but these figures indicate that any differences are negligible.

When you consider the effervescent energy and stylistic impact Gabriel Jesus adds to Arsenal’s team, coupled with his better productivity away from home, you can see why Arteta rates him as first-choice.

But this weekend’s trip to Tyneside provides Nketiah with another welcome opportunity to revise those perceptions.

Also in this series

Part 1: How Douglas Luiz epitomises Villa's strengths in top-four race
Part 3: Will Palhinha or Amrabat dictate key midfield battle?

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