Nketiah on Henry, Wenger, Bielsa and Arteta

After spending his first season in our iconic number 14 shirt, Eddie Nketiah has admitted he is hugely proud to wear the jersey his idol - and mentor - Thierry Henry donned.

Eddie jumped at the opportunity to take the vacant number after extending his stay at his boyhood club last summer, especially having worked under our record goalscorer during his time coaching at Hale End.

He has been reflecting on the time he spent with Thierry in a wide-ranging interview with the Premier League, and admits that he too is desperate to create some special memories with the famous number on his back.

“The history he set, I wanted to take that number on,” Eddie said. “Thierry was a great player but I’m just trying to create my own memories in that shirt, and have some things to look back on when my career is finished. I have immense pride in the shirt and I know what it means to the fans.

“I did have a couple of conversations with him as he’s at the stadium a lot, and he was delighted for me. He wishes me all the best and is always supporting me which is really nice to hear.

“[Being coached by Thierry] was my favourite year in the academy, definitely! It was so fun scoring goals and picking his brain day in, day out. Working with somebody of that standard, you can see the mentality that he has - when he joined in with training, he hates losing so much and that rubs off on you.

“Off the pitch, he’s such a cool guy. Sometimes I’d be talking to him and then go home and tell my friends that I’d just been chilling with Thierry and they thought I was lying! He’s a wonderful guy and I learnt so much working with him.”

Thierry Henry coaching at Hale End

Another Arsenal icon who has had a huge influence on Eddie’s career is Arsene Wenger, who handed him his debut in a Europa League tie against BATE Borisov in September 2016. 

Having guided our striker through the transition between the academy and the first-team, he is eternally grateful to our legendary manager for setting him up for the step up.

“Arsene was really good,” Eddie revealed. “He was like a real father figure to me when I was coming up through the academy, and he would put his arm around me and speak to me a lot. He gave me a lot of confidence and allowed me to believe I belonged at this level. 

“I’m really grateful to him for giving me my debut and the early games in my career. He came to the stadium not too long ago so it was really nice to catch up with him.”

Another legendary manager Eddie has learnt from is Marcelo Bielsa during his loan spell at Leeds United in 2019/20, and he again learned plenty from the Argentinian: “He’s a pretty special guy - he’s someone who loves football, and is always demanding of you to push yourself. 

“He pushed me out of my comfort zone every day and made sure I was giving 1,000 per cent and going into training the same way you play. That mentality stays with me today.”

Mikel Arteta and Eddie Nketiah

However he saves his biggest praise for the boss who is currently overseeing his development. Mikel Arteta was quick to cut short his time at Elland Road to make him part of his plans upon becoming our manager, with plans to push Eddie to the next level.

The 23-year-old was happy to give some insight into what makes Mikel tick, and how he has helped shape his progression on and off the field as he eyes making another step forward in 2023/24.

“The level of detail he goes into to make sure you’re really prepared for every phase of play,” Eddie revealed. “Tactically he’s always preparing for events or what might happen on the pitch before it’s happened. I’m probably the most aware I’ve ever been - spacially, tactically and knowing my role in the team and where I can help and impact others. That’s what sets Mikel apart.

“He called me into his office and we were looking through some clips, and he was breaking down the movements and spaces showing that if I could drop in here I can play with the defenders. It makes you think twice about your movements and not doing everything so naturally.”

Hear much more from Eddie in the Premier League’s Big Interview by pressing play above, including:

  • His development this season
  • How he views the current campaign
  • swapping Chelsea’s academy for ours
  • where he can improve
  • his hopes for next season and beyond
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