After injury at the FIFA World Cup ruled out Arsenal’s summer marquee buy, Gabriel Jesus for a considerable period, the club had a decision to make. They were split between splashing the cash for a new center forward or stick to the much unused Eddie Nketiah.
Nketiah has always been a player manager Mikel Arteta trusts, and the next level of showing his faith in the player was for manager to go with the option of using the English-born Ghanaian in Jesus’ absence.
Well, that has paid off immensely so far as the player has risen to become a very important contributor in Arsenal’s quest for a first Premier League title in close to 20 years.
Since the resumption of club football post-World Cup 2022, the 23 year old striker has notched 6 goals in 6 games. His latest string of goal scoring heroics came when his brace helped secure a crucial 3-2 win over Manchester United to cement Arsenal’s status as league leaders and lead-favorite for the premier League title.
One major factor behind Nketiah’s explosive form has been how physically fit and ready he has been. A dive into the details reveal a program he signed up to in 2019 which is yielding dividends.
As revealed by the Athletic’s James McNicholas in an article, FMiG begs to share the insight concerning the transformed physique of Eddie Nketiah and how it has helped turn around his status at the North London club.
Throughout Nketiah’s development, there were concerns over whether he would cope with the physical side of elite football. It was a factor in Chelsea’s decision to release him before Arsenal stepped in and signed him at age 14.
It’s something the club have made a concerted effort to work on, with strength and conditioning coach Sam Wilson taking the lead in helping improve Nketiah’s athleticism and physique.
Away from the training ground, the striker sought to take matters into his own hands. In 2019, Nketiah and his family approached Chris Varnavas of the Athletic Development Club in the Cockfosters district of north London — an independent studio focused on strength, conditioning and personal training.
“Eddie and his family came to our facility,” Varnavas, who worked previously with west London club Queens Park Rangers, tells The Athletic. “It’s a strength and conditioning and personal training studio. Initially, they just wanted to build some muscle and strength, increase his overall speed, power and athleticism.
“There were a lot of changes needed when he started training with us. He didn’t know too much about nutrition or general training — in fairness, he was only 20, 21 at the time.
“We sat down with him and his parents and put a bespoke programme together. We look at nutrition, sleep, and recovery. Obviously, he does a lot of that already at the club, but we find a lot of players are looking for a tailored, individualised approach.
“He was coming to see us regularly and started having good results — and he’s still with us to this day. We’re now seeing all that hard work benefitting his performances, which is great.”
Nketiah certainly cuts a broader, more muscular figure now than he did as a wiry teenager. Part of that is just natural maturation.
“Age is part of it,” admits Varnavas, “but he’s got other players who are from the same age group who haven’t done the extra work, and they’re nowhere near the first team. It was an important part of his career to boost that strength and conditioning and get him where he needed to be.”
By pushing himself outside of club training sessions, Nketiah succeeded where others failed and made the transition to first-team football.
“There was definitely a dedication, commitment and hunger to work hard and better himself every day,” says Varnavas. “He was helped because he had a good family around him who supported him and encouraged him to go down this route.
“It’s amazing to see him doing so well now because we’ve been working behind the scenes for many years.”