Arsenal boss Emery backs teenage striker Nketiah to fill Welbeck void

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has backed teenage striker Eddie Nketiah to fill the void left by Danny Welbeck’s serious ankle injury.

Welbeck was carried off on a stretcher after half an hour of the Gunners’ 0-0 Europa League draw at home to Sporting Lisbon on Thursday – a result which sealed progression into the knockout rounds.

The club confirmed on Friday that the England international had suffered a “significant right ankle injury” although no timescale has been placed on a return as of yet.

While Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been Emery’s go-to forwards in the Premier League, Welbeck had been playing an important role in the Europa League and Carabao Cup.

Meanwhile, Nketiah has yet to feature for Arsenal under Emery having been set to come on against Sporting before an injury to defender Stephan Lichtsteiner meant the Spaniard had to have a rethink.

Nketiah, 19, burst on to the scene last season as he scored two goals as a substitute on his senior debut in a Carabao Cup win over Norwich – the first of which just 15 seconds after he came off the bench.

Asked if Arsenal would now have to look to bring in a striker in January following Welbeck’s injury, Emery opened the door to the England Under-21 international.

“The first thing is to look inside,” he said.

“We have a striker who is working well in the under-23s and improving also – Eddie Nketiah. He can have chances but I think it’s early to speak about the possibility of January.”

Arsenal are in the midst of a 15-match unbeaten run that stretches back to August and welcome Wolves to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

They drew 1-1 at home to Liverpool last weekend in what was arguably one of their best showings under Emery to date.

One criticism levelled at Arsenal of late has been their slow start to matches and, since that was addressed against Jurgen Klopp’s side, Emery wants that to continue this weekend and beyond.

“Against Liverpool I think we had more in the 90 minutes of the game,” he said.

“Our idea is to repeat matches with this pace over 90 minutes. It’s not easy because other teams have their moments in the matches. But our idea is to continue improving this.

“It is about the progress in the team. The progress is about continuing to create confidence and creating also tactically different ways to improve.

“The first thing we must do to improve is to continue with our way, with our positioning and our aggressiveness, with the ball and without the ball, and then taking confidence to do these things better every match.

“The confidence can come, firstly, from winning matches and then also from when you feel it on the pitch you have a capacity to battle against teams with the potential of (a team like) Liverpool.”