Mikel Arteta insists everyone at Arsenal remains keen for Eddie Nketiah to stay at the club after his first senior hat-trick downed Sunderland in the Carabao Cup quarter-final.
The Gunners secured a comfortable 5-1 victory to reach the last four as Nketiah shone on a night where club-record signing Nicolas Pepe got on the scoresheet and 18-year-old Charlie Patino toasted his first-team debut with a goal.
Nketiah, 22, is out of contract in the summer and has reportedly turned down a contract offer as he struggles for game time, especially in the Premier League where he has played just 38 minutes so far this season.
Despite being unable to offer him regular football, Arteta is hopeful he can still convince Nketiah to remain at the Emirates Stadium beyond the end of the current campaign.
“I tell you every day that we want to keep Eddie,” he said.
“We see how he trains, that’s what he does every day, he works so hard and puts the ball in the net every session. I am really delighted with him. Every time we have needed him he has always responded.
“We are trying (to persuade him to stay). It’s not about anything else but minutes. He wants game time, he wants to be on that field and that is the only reason to say ‘can I do it here?’ That’s the question. We all want him to stay.”
Asked if he was likely to rely on Nketiah more in the coming weeks with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang banished from first-team duty as an internal disciplinary measure, Arteta added: “Yes.
“Recently he’s played more minutes than in the past and we’re going to need him and he’s going to play more minutes.
“The way we planned the squad and the way his situation looked in the window, he had a lot of options to go and we thought that was probably the best way to go.
“But the way we assembled the squad the situation changed and he decided to stay and it was hard to find minutes for him. But he’s finding the space right now and is using his minutes really well.
“He has the capacity to finish in the box on any surface and then I really like his character. He wants to be the best and works all the time to do that. He’s a player that has come through our system and that’s why we want to keep him.”
While he ended the night with the match ball, Nketiah’s display was arguably overshadowed by a debut for highly-rated midfielder Patino.
The England Under-19 international heard his name ring around the Emirates Stadium before he had even entered the field of play and Arteta is keen for the hype surrounding the teenager to be kept to a minimum.
“That is what we have to avoid,” he added.
“He still has a lot of competition in front of him. He is really young. And he needs to go step by step. Today he was lucky, he got the opportunity and he took it really well.
“(The goal) Was a beautiful moment. He is a kid that is coming through our system, a lovely kid. He is training with us almost every week. It was a dream. As a debut to come here, to score in front of our fans, a really special moment.
“I think that is very positive. They heard about him and know what he can become and now we have to cook him slowly. Today was a good start, I think.”
Sunderland were well beaten but had rallied after in-form Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead made it 2-1 with a neat finish.
“I thought we had a really good spell,” Black Cats boss Lee Johnson said.
“We grew in confidence. Our quality was on show. Arsenal found it quite difficult to get us off the ball in the final third.
“I’m very proud of the players. The league is always the priority. We can use today as a motivation. I really enjoyed today.”