Arsenal have been defended for giving Eddie Nketiah the No. 14 shirt amid plenty of criticism and some gleeful jibes from former Tottenham man Jamie O’Hara.

It’s no secret the Gunners have been on the hunt for a new striker following the exit of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang.

Nketiah has been given the club’s coveted No. 14


Nketiah has been given the club’s coveted No. 14

And whilst Mikel Arteta will likely continue to look for another man to bring in to help lead the line – with Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus being targeted – the Gunners’ latest moves suggest Nketiah may be seen as their new main man.

After months of speculation as to whether he would leave the club in search of more game time, the 23-year-old penned a new five year deal last week, keeping him at the club until 2027.

This is after his impressive end to the season in the Premier League, scoring twice against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, twice against Leeds and once on the final day versus Everton.

But whilst Nketiah has earnt his new deal, it’s the Gunners’ decision to give him the coveted No. 14 shirt – the jersey previously worn by former talismanic striker Thierry Henry – that has been questioned by fans and pundits alike.

And talkSPORT’s Jamie O’Hara is no exception.

Given O’Hara previously played for Arsenal’s north London rivals, Tottenham, he has been basking in the glory of Spurs pushing Arsenal out of the top four at the last minute in the Premier League last season.

Nketiah’s end of season performance clearly impressed the Arsenal hierarchy


Nketiah’s end of season performance clearly impressed the Arsenal hierarchy

And when asked by co-host Natalie Sawyer on Monday’s Breakfast Show as to why he was ‘sniggering’ at the Gunners’ decision to hand the youngster the iconic shirt number, O’Hara couldn’t help but laugh.

He said: “Giving the No.14 shirt to Eddie Nketiah, oh wow – what are they doing there? That’s embarrassing, isn’t it? Let’s give Thierry Henry’s shirt to Nketiah, who was going to leave six months ago!

“Look, it’s an iconic football shirt, alright? The No. 14, the Thierry Henry shirt. I think that’s a big statement.

“It’s like the No. 7 at Manchester United, it’s like the No. 9 at Newcastle. You’ve got to be a hell of a player to take that on board.”

O’Hara did give credit to Nketiah for his bravery taking on that kind of burden, but was ultimately stunned the 23-year-old has been given one of the most iconic shirts in English football history.

“Fair play to Eddie Nketiah, whether he’s asked for it or what, but I can’t believe Arsenal have given him the shirt,” added for ex-Spurs man.

O’Hara believes Nketiah’s new shirt number is good news for Spurs

The Sun

O’Hara believes Nketiah’s new shirt number is good news for Spurs

“They need a striker, a world class one, and the first thing I would be saying if I was trying to bring in a world class striker was ‘we will give you the No. 14, because you’re the new Thierry Henry for us’.

“Because he was the most iconic player for them.”

However, while the former midfielder did give an objective view of Nketiah’s new shirt number, he did also make sure to make his feelings about Arsenal and Tottenham’s rivalry known in the discussion.

And he’s convinced that the starlet getting the No. 14 shirt shows the Gunners’ lack ambition.

“I can’t believe he’s getting the No. 14. It just sums up really where Arsenal are right now!” O’Hara said.

“Spurs are buying all these great players, and we’re flying high! We’ve got Champions League football!

“And they’re giving a player – who didn’t even want to be at the football club, all the fans said he wasn’t good enough, he’s had a decent end to the season – Thierry Henry’s shirt!

“It’s unbelievable! It’s magic for us [Spurs] right now!”

Nketiah enjoyed a brilliant end to the season for Arsenal and is set to be given a bigger role in the team next term


Nketiah enjoyed a brilliant end to the season for Arsenal and is set to be given a bigger role in the team next term

However, talkSPORT host and huge Arsenal fan Laura Woods didn’t see a problem with Nketiah being handed the No.14, because, at the end of the day, it is just a number on the back of a shirt.

“I do think in the wider context of this whole argument about Eddie taking the No.14 shirt people are forgetting is, it’s not like Henry just left Arsenal or we retired the shirt,” said Woods.

“Other players took the shirt. I know what a lot of the fans are saying and you are never going to replace him.

“If you have that many problems about it, then retire the shirt. Let’s be honest, no one can fill Thierry Henry’s boots. If they do, then wow, incredible, amazing.

“It’s probably not going to happen. Thierry Henry is a once in a lifetime footballer. 

“Theo Walcott took the shirt and had it for ten years and I don’t know if there was this much uproar at the time.

“I think people got behind him. I read an article with quotes from Theo Walcott saying if Thierry came back, and he did come back and scored that goal against Leeds, then he wouldn’t give him the shirt.

“There was a fun little rivalry there and Theo was a brilliant player, but at the time we didn’t know what player he would go on to become.

“That’s the same for Eddie. There’s a lot of uproar before we’ve seen what kind of player he will develop into.

“They obviously wanted to keep him at the club, he wanted first team football, and I’m glad he’s staying.

“I’m an Arsenal fan through and through, and always will be, but I just don’t have an issue with it.

“I respect people’s opinions on it and if people do have an issue with it. For me, it’s not that big an issue.”

Replying to O’Hara, former Crystal Palace and Everton star Yannick Bolasie said: “Nah can’t respect that bro….mocking and laughing about a young player, when he’s been given the chance he didn’t let the team down, what’s a bloody number….the man makes the suit the suit don’t make the man don’t forget that.”

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