LONDON — Arsenal coach Unai Emery says Danny Welbeck’s injury won’t necessarily force the club to sign a new forward in January, and that academy product Eddie Nketiah could be ready to step up instead.
Arsenal are still waiting to find out exactly how long Welbeck will be sidelined for, but there are fears that he will be out for the rest of the season if Emery’s initial prognosis of a broken ankle is confirmed.
Welbeck was injured during Thursday’s Europa League game against Sporting Lisbon, and had to be given oxygen on the pitch before he was carried off on a stretcher.
His injury leaves Emery with no senior back-up to strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but the Spanish coach said he would rather find a solution inside the club than dip into the January market.
“The first [choice] is to look inside, and we have one striker also who is working well with the under-23s and is improving also, Eddie Nketiah, and he could have chances,” Emery said ahead of Sunday’s Premier League meeting with Wolves. “But I think it’s early for speaking about the possibility [of making signings] in January.”
The 19-year-old Nketiah has been pouring in goals for Arsenal’s academy for the last couple of seasons, and has six in seven games with the U-23s this campaign. He was given his first-team debut by Arsene Wenger last year, and came off the bench to score twice in a 2-1 extra-time win over Norwich in the Carabao Cup.
He has yet to make an appearance under Emery, but was about to come off the bench against Lisbon when an injury to right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner forced Emery to change his mind and bring on Ainsley Maitland-Niles instead.
Arsenal have been linked with a move for Lille winger Nicolas Pepe, while there may also be an option to recall 18-year-old attacking midfielder Reiss Nelson from his loan spell at Hoffenheim.
Nelson netted his sixth Bundesliga goal in seven games for the German club on Saturday after a very impressive start to the season, but Emery said before the Lisbon game that he wouldn’t discuss the possibility of ending his loan spell early in January.
“At the moment we don’t speak about that,” Emery said then. “With Reiss, we are very happy with him at the moment. We follow him every match. We are thinking about how he can help us in the future.
“It is our idea with him [to let him get regular playing time in Germany]. He can take responsibility, minutes and confidence in a team where he can play more. Then the objective is to come back with us and grow with this experience.”