Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has revealed the factors as to why he hasn't played striker Eddie Nketiah more often this season.
Nketiah was given a rare start by Arteta in their 4-2 win at rivals Chelsea on Wednesday, repaying his boss' faith by scoring twice at Stamford Bridge.
Arteta has often opted to play Alexandre Lacazette up front this season, but he has only scored twice from open play in the Premier League this term - a tally that Nketiah has levelled in just two starts.
Both Lacazette and Nketiah's contracts expire at the end of the season, and Arteta has admitted this uncertainty has played a part in his selection process.
“It is because the space that he had in the team because of his personal situation, his contractual situation,” Arteta said ahead of Saturday's visit of Manchester United.
“But he doesn’t give us anything else than the best every single day, the way he trains, the way he wants to improve, the attention that he pays, how he behaves when he plays when he doesn’t play.
“He is just a phenomenal player and he has shown, not to me, I think to the whole team and that’s why he is so respected in the dressing room the type of person he is.
“He has this special ability that the ball lands where he is. He is able to read the situation or modify his position very quickly in relation to what he expects to happen and the ball gets to him and when that happens most of the time he puts the ball in the net.”
Listen now to 90min's Arsenal podcast, The Chroncles of a Gooner, with host Harry Symeou. Friday's show previews the clash with Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium and whether Eddie Nketiah should retain his place up front.
Arteta has also urged Nketiah to follow the example set by Emile Smith Rowe in how to break into his starting lineup.
Smith Rowe broke into the Arsenal fold following a similar display against Chelsea on Boxing Day in 2020 and is now a key part of Arteta's squad, registering 10 goals in 28 Premier League games so far this season.
And Arteta wants Nketiah to follow Smith Rowe's lead and seize this opportunity to prove he should be getting more minutes.
“If you have that character and that quality, to show it immediately or very quickly, things can turn very quickly,” Arteta added. “In football anything can happen. Emile had three months out with his shoulder and a lot of things happened, he was getting back and he was looking really good, and we decided to give him the opportunity.
“But then he had to step in and he had to perform. He has done it really consistently and especially this season as well with the amount of goals he is scoring.
“Eddie has this capacity. What he needs is opportunity, time and support, especially when he has difficult moments. If you are ready and prepared to do it, I am sure he will be successful.”