Mikel Arteta has big decisions to make as Arsenal’s changed frontline shows promise but also inconsistency

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Mikel Arteta has big decisions to make as Arsenal’s changed frontline shows promise but also inconsistency
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There are seemingly three certainties in life: death, taxes and Eddie Nketiah scoring in the Carabao Cup.

The striker took his tally in the competition to 10 goals in nine games on Tuesday night, as Arsenal cruised into the semi-finals with a comfortable 5-1 win over Sunderland.

Nicolas Pepe and debutant Charlie Patino also got on the scoresheet, but Nketiah was the hero as he left Emirates Stadium with the match ball under his arm.

The 22-year-old is due to be a free agent in the summer and in around two weeks’ time he can start talking to foreign clubs about a pre-contract agreement.

On this evidence, there may well be a few interested suitors and Arsenal could also want to make another attempt at getting Nketiah to sign a new contract.

This was a classic Nketiah performance, three goals all scored from inside the box, and it was very much a poacher’s hat-trick. For the first goal, he was in the right place at the right time to knee home Rob Holding’s saved header. The second was a neat finish from Nuno Tavares’ cross and the third was the pick of the bunch, with Nketiah neatly Cruyff-flicking Pepe’s ball in.

It was a reminder of what Nketiah can offer. He’s a ‘fox in the box’ striker and that is something a lot of clubs, perhaps even Arsenal, could do with in the second-half of the season.

Nketiah was close to joining Crystal Palace in the summer and you suspect other Premier League sides could well be keen on him now.

Balogun in need of loan move

Nketiah had a dream night upfront and that was in contrast to Folarin Balogun, who had a frustrating evening.

The 20-year-old has spent most of this season playing for the under-23s, but he was given a taste of the first team against Sunderland.

Balogun enjoyed a few nice moments in the first-half, however he wasted the two good chances that came his way. In the end, the forward was hooked just before the hour mark after being booked moments earlier.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

On the evidence of this game, it was clear to see that Balogun is in need of a loan and the chance to play regular football. He looked a little off the pace and that is understandable given his lack of senior minutes.

The plan is to loan him out in January and six months in the Championship would no doubt do the youngster the world of good.

Pepe blows hot and cold - again

It’s a surprise that Arteta is yet to pull out any of his immaculate hair coaching Pepe.

The Ivorian would surely drive any manager up the wall with his ability to blow hot and cold, even in the same match.

That was the case against Sunderland as once again Pepe showed flashes of brilliance, alongside moments of incompetence.

He took his goal well, finish nicely after Cedric had picked him out with a smart cut-back, and there were other bright moments during the first-half.

Then there was Arsenal’s third goal, where Pepe had given the ball away just moments before. He swiftly made amends, however, but nutmegging the Sunderland defender and picking out Nketiah with a cross.

It was a moment of real quality and a passage of play that underlined how Pepe’s inconsistency makes him such a hard player to rely on.

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