Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said Eddie Nketiah is a “top level” striker with the ability to get even better after scoring a hat-trick in Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Sheffield United.
A routine victory for the Gunners took Arteta’s men to within two points of north London rivals Tottenham at the top of the Premier League table.
But many have questioned whether Arsenal have the natural goalscorer needed to take the title from Manchester City.
Nketiah could be set for a run in the side after Gabriel Jesus picked up a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League win away to Sevilla.
And Arteta heaped praise on England’s all-time top goalscorer at under-21 international level.
“For me, he is top level,” said Arteta. “He has started eight out of the 10 Premier League games, so that tells you how much we and I trust him and the importance he has in the team.
“Really happy for him, an academy player, to experience a hat-trick in the Premier League.
“He needs to enjoy the moment, he fully deserves it, and hopefully there are many more to come.”
Nketiah was forced to deputise for Jesus for long spells last season after the Brazilian suffered a knee injury at the World Cup.
After an initial impressive impact with four goals in five games in December and January, Nketiah failed to score in his final 13 Premier League appearances of the campaign as Arsenal were overhauled by City in the title race.
But Arteta insisted he has both the talent and mentality to be trusted as Arsenal’s number nine.
“You look at the stats from his last 10 years, what he has done is remarkable,” added the Spaniard.
“He needs minutes and opportunities and service and if he gets that, Eddie is going to score goals, that is for sure.
“How good is he now? He is already playing for Arsenal, he has started eight games in the Premier League. He is already really, really good. He can be better, yes.
“The best thing about Eddie is the talent that he has got, but especially (his) mentality. It’s incredible. When he has that mentality, with that talent, obviously he is going to get much better.”
There was also a major milestone for another Arsenal academy graduate as Bukayo Saka was named captain for the first time.
“He deserves it,” said Arteta.
“His journey is extraordinary, he’s one of our most important players.
“His role in the team and in the club has grown, his leadership and presence has to grow at the same level, he needs to start to make those steps and I think he’s ready for that.”