The 22-year-old was on the books of Chelsea’s famed academy in Cobham, London between 2008 and 2015 – a period of seven years – until the club booted him out when he was with their Under 14 team. Arsenal picked him up soon after, and he finally made his debut with the club two seasons ago.
Nketiah was the difference-maker for the Gunners against their London rivals. First, he latched on to a short pass from Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen in defence to place one past the onrushing Edouard Mendy.
Then in the second half, he pressed Chelsea’s defence and his high-intensity pressing led to a comedy of errors which he capitalised on to poke the ball home from around the penalty spot.
The Gunners ran out 4-2 on the night thanks to his efforts, which were also his first goals in the Premier League for more than a year.
Speaking to journalists after the game, Nketiah, who is set to leave Arsenal in the summer, said: “I think it makes that bit more special, I was here up until U14s and then got let go so you always have that chip on your shoulder to come and prove yourself.
“But today isn’t about me, it is good I got two goals, but it is about the team and bouncing back.”
Arsenal went into the game on the back of three consecutive losses to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Southampton where they scored only one goal and conceded six. However, they have now built momentum for the rest of the season to help them in their top-four charge.
The win in west London means Mikel Arteta’s side stay in fifth place, level on 57 points with their fierce North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who are only ahead of them on goal difference with six games remaining.
Nketiah was asked what he thought about his side’s top-four chances. The striker opined that they have gotten a big push with the win over Chelsea which they will take into the rest of the season.
“I think it gives us confidence, we’ve all stuck together through the difficult times. We’ve showed that we can bounce back from setbacks,” he said.
“Today is a great result, it is always nice winning a derby and we’re just looking to push on and hopefully keep getting three points to climb up the table.”
Nketiah’s performance was also praised by Arteta who admitted that the young striker has not had many opportunities under him.
“What Eddie has done tonight is because of what he has done for the last 10 months and no one has noticed,” the former Manchester City assistant manager said. “I said to him I haven’t been fair. I should have been playing him more.
“We have other issues as well and that has not been easy. But he deserved completely what happened to him tonight.”
Arsenal travel back home to prepare for Manchester United who are also in the top-four race, but low on confidence after a thrashing from title challengers Liverpool on Tuesday.