Exclusive: Eddie Nketiah opens up on relationship with Arsenal teammate Folarin Balogun
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Eddie Nketiah has lifted the lid on his relationship with fellow Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun as the pair compete for the No. 9 spot at the Emirates.
With Jesus still unavailable, Nketiah is in contention for another start against Crystal Palace as the Gunners look to make it two wins from two on Monday evening.
Balogun was also absent for Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Forest with an ankle injury.
The 22-year-old striker has returned to north London after an excellent season on loan at Reims where he scored 21 goals in Ligue 1.
However, he is desperate to play regular first-team football – a feat which looks unlikely under Mikel Arteta, with both Nketiah and Jesus seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order.
As a result, Balogun has been heavily linked with a move away, with Chelsea, Monaco and Fulham all thought to be keen on the USA international, claim the Daily Mail.
Interestingly, both Nketiah and Balogun share the same agency called Elite Project Group Limited, who also represent Hale End graduate Bukayo Saka.
When asked what it was like to be competing against someone in that situation, Nketiah explained that it made little difference, but admitted he and Balogun were on “different paths”.
“That’s fine, we get on well,” he exclusively told SPORTbible at the official opening of Under Armour’s new Brand House on Oxford Street.
“He’s a great guy and he’s a great player, every situation is different.
“We’re managed by the same people, but we have different careers. We’re on different paths, so that doesn’t really matter.
“It’s good to have him back. I wish him all the best, he’s a great player.”
The 24-year-old's comments may raise a few eyebrows and perhaps add fuel to speculation that Balogun may move away this summer.
Nketiah also has the added competition of Kai Havertz this season, after the German joined Arsenal from Chelsea for a reported fee of £65 million.
When quizzed on what sort of role he would play in the squad, Nketiah responded with a smirk, exclaiming: “I don’t get paid to pick the team,” before conceding that Havertz is a useful addition.
“What I can say is he’s a great player and he’s going to help us this season. But competition is competition, I know what I can add,” he confidently explained.
Indeed, there appears to be competition in almost every position at the Emirates, but Nketiah is backing himself to take the opportunities when they arrive.
“All I can do is focus on my situation, that’s how I try to look at things," the Englishman said. "There’s always going to be competition.
“It’s down to me to back myself and push hard and work hard and take the opportunities I get to show why I should be playing, and why I can help the team.”