Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah ended his scoring drought in stunning fashion with a hat-trick in his side’s 5-0 home thrashing of hapless Sheffield United in the Premier League on Saturday.
The 24-year-old, who made his full England debut this month, had not scored for the Gunners since August and had recently lost his place in the starting line-up.
But he found bottom club United’s over-worked defence much more to his liking as he grabbed his first Arsenal hat-trick.
Nketiah, in for the injured Gabriel Jesus, broke the deadlock in the 28th minute with a fine finish after a pass by Declan Rice and made it 2-0 shortly after halftime with an emphatic strike after United keeper Wes Foderingham failed to intercept Bukayo Saka’s corner.
The best was saved until last, though, with Nketiah smashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner before retrieving the ball and holding it aloft.
Nketiah later dedicated his hat-trick to his aunt who recently died.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s not been easy. Her family were here watching so it is a really special moment.”
A Fabio Vieira penalty in the 88th minute, given after a VAR check following a foul on Vieira by Oliver Norwood, and substitute Takehiro Tomiyasu completed the rout from close range with his first Arsenal goal.
Victory pushed unbeaten Arsenal up to second place with 24 points from 10 games, two behind Tottenham Hotspur who won at Crystal Palace on Friday.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was full of praise for the way Nketiah responded to his return to the starting line-up.
“For me he is top level. He’s started nine out of our 10 Premier League games. That shows how much we trust him,” the Spaniard said.
While it was a stroll for Arsenal, it was a familiar story for promoted Sheffield United who have collected only one point from their opening 10 games and face a long, hard winter ahead in their bid to stay up.
They failed to get an effort on target and the spotlight will fall inevitably on under-pressure manager Paul Heckingbottom.
“They out-fought us as well as out-played us in the second half. That’s what good teams do, they have the physicality as well,” he said.
“But it is fair to say Arsenal away won’t define our season.”