Noel Whelan lavished Eddie Nketiah with praise for his efforts in Leeds’ recent Carabao Cup tie, as told to Football Insider.
The Arsenal youngster joined the Whites on a season-long loan deal in the summer in the hopes of earning regular minutes in senior football, and his decision to choose life at Elland Road over Bristol City (Sky Sports) appears to be paying off already.
Nketiah made his second start for the West Yorkshire outfit in the EFL Cup against Stoke City on Tuesday night, and helped overturn a first-half two-goal deficit with his third successful strike for his temporary side in the 67th minute.
The 20-year-old capitalised on the latest blunder by Jack Butland, with the England international’s clearance cannoning off one of his teammates, to leave Nketiah with possession and the chance to round the Potters ‘keeper to score.
Fellow loanee Helder Costa later netted to draw Leeds level and take the tie to penalties, but Whelan feels the efforts of Nketiah were outstanding and has suggested it will not be long before Marcelo Bielsa awards him a start in the Championship.
“I’m looking forward to seeing more of Nketiah, and there’s no doubt I will,” former Leeds striker Whelan said. “He is looking sharp, and last night’s game will help get his fitness and sharpness up to speed.
“He looks brilliant. You watch him play and think, ‘wow, he’s outstanding’ – the movement, the pace, the knack for being in the right place at the right time. [He is a] proper striker.
“Nketiah will be in the first-team in the league soon enough, and Patrick Bamford will be on the bench. Bamford has made an excellent start to the season, and looks fitter and stronger than last season, but he is not going to start every game.
“He doesn’t have a great injury record, so the two of them will be vying for the spearhead role. Healthy competition is good. They will make each other better players.”
Nketiah and Bamford making each other better players will undoubtedly help Leeds in their bid to leave the Championship for the Premier League next May, as the Whites’ goal difference last season ensured they were still chasing Sheffield United for the final automatic spot even when level on points.
The Blades, along with title-clinching Norwich City (Teemu Pukki with 29) and Play-Off winners Aston Villa (Tammy Abraham with 25), also boasted one of the top-four goalscorers in the second-tier in 2018/19 with Billy Sharp (23), while United’s best, Kemar Roofe, ranked outside the top ten with 15 successful strikes to his name.
Closing the gap on goals will naturally better place the Elland Road natives for an automatic promotion place come the end of the season, as they are already keeping their head afloat at the top of the tree with a formidable backline that has only conceded two goals in the Championship so far this season.
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