Arsenal 5 Sunderland 1: Eddie Nketiah nets first hat-trick before teen star Patino sets Emirates alight with first goal

EDDIE NKETIAH showed why Mikel Arteta is so keen to get him to sign a new contract as Arsenal seized their place in the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

The 22-year-old striker has only six months to run on his current deal and has already made it clear that he intends to leave as a free agent at the end of the season.

But Arteta refuses to give up hope of prompting a change of heart from the England Under-21 international.

And it is not hard to see why Nketiah is rated so highly after the first hat-trick of his career confirmed that he won’t be short of offers if he does go ahead with his planned move.

Yet even though he has now scored an incredible ten goals in nine Carabao Cup appearances, he still hasn’t been able to convince Arteta to give him many Premier League minutes. 

And it is that lack of action in the matches which really matter which have made him believe that his future lies away from the Emirates.

Mind you, it would take a brave man to turn his back on this exciting young squad who are finally starting to look like serious players again.

There was even time for 18-year-old Charlie Patino to celebrate his much awaited debut with a stoppage time goal to really get the party started.

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It was Arteta’s second anniversary as Arsenal boss on Monday and there have been plenty of times when it looked as though he might not make it this far.

It’s easy to forget that this time last year they were 15th in the table and rock bottom after the opening three games of the current campaign.

There were even calls for Arteta’s head when they lost to Everton two weeks ago, but subsequent victories against Southampton, West Ham and Leeds have silenced the mob for now.

That mini revival has sparked some much-needed Christmas joy and now Arsenal enter the festive period fourth in the League and one step away from Wembley.

But subsequent victories against Southampton, West Ham and Leeds have sparked some much needed Christmas joy and they enter the festive period fourth in the table and one step away from a trip to Wembley.

And Arteta must be doing something right to convince a crowd of 59.027 to risk Covid to see his reserve  team in action against League One opposition.

For Sunderland boss Lee Johnson this was a trip too far after away wins at Port Vale, Blackpool, Wigan and QPR to reach this stage of the competition.

Johnson had incurred the wrath of the Arsenal online community when he had joked that he was happy with this quarter-final draw because it meant that he would avoid the ‘big’ clubs. 

But he wasn’t laughing for long when his team fell behind after 17 minutes to Nketiah’s opening strike.

The visitors had already got away with one when Elliot Embleton inadvertently booted Nuno Tavares’ low cross against his own bar.

But there was to be no escape when Rob Holding’s powerful header was clawed out by keeper Lee Burge for Nketiah to bundle over the line with his knee.

The much talked about but rarely seen Folarin Balogun missed a simple opportunity to double the lead when he fluffed a close range header from Cedric’s pinpoint cross.

Yet Arsenal could afford to shrug off that when Nicolas Pepe struck in the 27th minute with the help of a deflection off Manchester City loanee Callum Doyle.

It was beginning to look for all the world as though this was going to be a simple stroll into this evening’s semi-final draw for Arteta’s men.

But nothing is ever that straightforward with Arsenal and 14 minutes from the break they handed Sunderland a lifeline when Embleton opened up their defence and Nathan Broadhead lifted his shot past the advancing Bernd Leno.

Suddenly the massed ranks of visiting Sunderland fans started to sense that an upset might just be on the cards.

But the loss of goalscorer Broadhead to a 45th minute injury seriously damaged their prospects.

And their goose was well and truly cooked six minutes into the second-half when Nketiah nipped ahead of Doyle to convert Tavares’ low cross.

It was a real poacher’s finish from Nketiah and even better was to come six minutes later when he completed his first career hat-trick with a delicious backheel after Pepe had nutmegged Denver Hume.

There was even time for the Arsenal fans to enjoy a bit of Christmas Patino as the most hyped youngster in the history of football was introduced as a late sub.

If you believe the thousands of fans who have never even seen him play before, 18-year-old Charlie Patino is the most exciting prospect ever to come through the Arsenal academy.

Mind you, that’s what they were saying about Nketiah a couple of years ago.

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