Eddie Nketiah has been backed to follow in the footsteps of Thierry Henry after taking the Arsenal legend’s famous no.14 shirt.
The 23-year-old striker put pen to paper on a new contract with the Gunners on Saturday, and the announcement featured one bit of news that left some supporters stunned.
Nketiah was rewarded with a new deal after a strong end to the season – scoring five goals in the last seven Premier League games.
But as well as fresh terms with his boyhood club, the young striker was also handed the no.14 shirt by manager Mikel Arteta and director of football Edu – a momentous upgrade from his previous no.30.
The significance of the switch was lost on nobody, with some fans doubting why Nketiah – who was close to leaving Arsenal this summer as he stalled in new contract negotiations – was given the honour.
Others doubted whether he can deal with the pressure of wearing one of the most iconic shirts in English football history give it is now synonymous with Arsenal record goalscorer and Premier League great Henry.
But Nketiah has been hailed for the decision, with Rangers legend Ally McCoist saying it shows immense strength of character.
“That’s probably the only number you wouldn’t really want at Arsenal,” the former striker told the talkSPORT Breakfast.
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“Because whether you like it or not, there will be a section of supporters who always judge you on the previous No.14, and that must be very, very difficult.
“It does show some strength of character from Nketiah, ‘throwing on the no.14 doesn’t matter to me, I’ll handle that’.”
Speaking on the Boot Room, former West Ham defender Anton Ferdinand said taking the famous shirt will pile pressure on the striker to deliver next season, possibly too much for the 23-year-old to cope with.
But former Arsenal star Perry Groves disagrees, insisting the decision shows Nketiah’s confidence and self-belief that he can be one of Arsenal’s main players.
“He’s taken the No.14 shirt, does that have a pressure with it? No, I like the way he’s actually taken it and thought ‘yes’.
“I would have thought they would have talked about it and Mikel Arteta would have offered it to him.
“And that’s another statement, saying you’re going to be one of my main players. It depends who Arsenal sign, of course, I still think we need another forward. We need competition for places.
“Following in Thierry Henry’s footsteps, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s footsteps as well.
“I think it’s a testament to Nketiah and his belief in himself that he’s brave enough to take that shirt.”
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