Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa may have surprised some this past week when he suggested, in comments reported by Leeds Live, that he would like to keep Eddie Nketiah for next season when asked about the possibility of the striker returning to Arsenal in January.
It has been a difficult loan spell for Nketiah. He has scored some incredibly important goals for the Whites. But he is yet to make his first Championship start for Leeds, sustaining an injury just as that chance looked set to come his way.
He is back in training. But he is returning during Patrick Bamford’s best run of the season. The striker now has three in his last four, silencing a lot of his critics.
The Daily Mirror recently reported that Leeds are making plans in case Nketiah is recalled in January. So it will be fascinating to see how much the youngster plays over the next month.
If he goes into January still awaiting a full league debut for the Whites, it would be no surprise to see Arsenal bring him back.
But perhaps the recent performances of one of his Leeds teammates this season should tempt Arsenal to not only leave Nketiah at Elland Road this season, but to also allow Bielsa to hold onto him for another year as he hopes.
Few Leeds fans seemed to be jumping for joy when the club announced that they had re-signed Jack Harrison for a second loan spell this summer – despite reports from The Sun suggesting that Manchester City were looking for £20 million from any side looking for a permanent deal.
Harrison had been one of Bielsa’s key men last season. But he struggled to avoid criticism. And it is probably fair to say that he did not provide anything like the goals and assists that he should have done. He scored four and set up three in 39 Championship games.
This season however, Harrison has been a revelation. He was outstanding in pre-season. And after a dip in form, the winger has been on fire of late. He has both scored and assisted four league goals. And he has taken less than half the games to reach those tallies.
It does appear that Harrison has taken his game to another level during this second loan spell. And if Nketiah is not going to be involved in the Arsenal first-team next year, then perhaps the Gunners should let him stay in the hope that he also kicks on.
There are some key differences. Harrison has now made 58 league appearances and 53 starts for Bielsa. Meanwhile, Nketiah has not been involved anywhere near as often.
It is also worth noting that the striker looks to be much closer to the Arsenal first-team than Harrison is at City. Therefore, it is probably going to be tougher for Leeds to get Nketiah back than it potentially was to agree a deal for Harrison.
But if Nketiah is available, then letting him stay at Leeds should be an option. Harrison’s development during his time working with Bielsa suggests it could be a masterstroke from the Gunners.