Merson claims Arsenal star must start v Everton after Arteta ‘masterstroke’ against Leicester

Joe Williams
Arsenal legend Paul Merson takes part in a charity match

Paul Merson would “be shocked” if Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah didn’t return to the starting line-up against Everton on Wednesday.

Nketiah, who has been covering for the injured Gabriel Jesus, was dropped to the bench for Leandro Trossard as the Gunners won 1-0 against Leicester City on Saturday.

Arsenal face Everton on Wednesday night in the Premier League as they look to strengthen their grip on first place with Manchester City in FA Cup action.

The Gunners can go five points clear if they win their game in hand against the Toffees and Merson has urged Mikel Arteta to restore Nketiah – who has scored nine goals in all competitions this season – to the starting XI.

“I wasn’t sure about Leandro Trossard playing up front, I didn’t think it worked,” Merson told Sky Sports.

“I’d have brought Eddie Nketiah on at half-time because for all the play Arsenal had they didn’t look like scoring in the first half. The VAR decision to disallow Trossard’s goal was a brilliant spot.

“Trossard playing in that position did mean they could keep possession because he was coming short for the ball. It was like Man City from last season playing a false nine.

“That said, it was a good decision to give Nketiah a rest and I’d be shocked if he didn’t play against Everton on Wednesday. So it’s a masterstroke really to get him out of the firing line to recharge.”

On the title race, Merson added: “Arsenal have got to win on Wednesday against Everton, which is their game in hand and can move them five points clear.

“You’ve got to make that game in hand count, that’s the name of the game. They should beat Bournemouth on Saturday and then you’re at least five points clear with 12 games to go – it’s in your hands.”

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy was more impressed by Trossard as a false nine than Merson and hailed his “brilliant” contribution.

Murphy told the Daily Mail: “They say it’s best to strengthen from a position of strength and Arsenal are reaping the rewards of an excellent January transfer window.

“The league leaders didn’t sulk after missing out on Mykhailo Mudryk and Moises Caceido, they went straight to Plan B and brought in Leandro Trossard and Jorginho who have made significant contributions already.

“I thought Trossard was brilliant as a false nine at Leicester today. He won’t be as direct an attacking threat as Eddie Nketiah but he’s an intelligent footballer and helped Arsenal to control the game by knowing when to drop deep.”

READ MORE: Big Midweek: Arsenal v Everton, Liverpool, Erik ten Hag, the Guernsey Grealish, Copa Clasico