The irony of a player released at Under-14 level for being too short scoring a winning goal in a cup tie with a towering header while still a teenager will not be lost on Eddie Nketiah.
He will feel 10 feet tall today. Chants of “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” rang around Emirates Stadium after a captivating cameo from the 5ft 8in former Chelsea junior player which transformed the Carabao Cup result and also the atmosphere in Arsenal’s favour.
The Gunners were 1-0 down with five minutes to go against a Norwich side who should have been further ahead, while Mohamed Elneny was extremely fortunate not to have been sent off for hauling back Nelson Oliveira.
It appeared manager Arsene Wenger had left himself with no back-up plan, naming a bench with just 16 senior appearances between them, 10 of which belonged to Chuba Akpom.
But 15 seconds into his second ever outing and just five minutes from time, Nketiah was in the right place to turn the ball home from a corner, and those disgruntled supporters who had begun to vent familiar fury had a new hero.
He then scored again six minutes into extra time to turn the game on its head and make his story all the more implausible. “Give it to Eddie!” fans located around the press box cried.
Before the game had even finished, some opportune soul had changed Nketiah’s Wikipedia page to include the line: “He is widely considered the best player of all time.”
The 18-year-old himself described it as a dream come true. “I’m delighted to get two goals and win the match for the team,” he said.
“I’m very thankful to the boss for giving me that opportunity to come on and show what I can do. I’m really happy the fans welcomed me into the team like that, and to hear your name at such a young age is a dream come true. Hopefully it is the first of many.
“I came on there with full focus to help the team win. I believe in myself and I believe that I can always get goals so I just tried to get in goalscoring opportunities. Thankfully they went in and hopefully they are the first of many.”
Whether Nketiah goes on to occupy a place in Arsenal’s history closer to Sanchez Watt — who scored on his League Cup debut at the same age in 2009 but played only twice more for the club and now plies his trade at Crawley Town — or something closer to Thierry Henry remains to be seen.
He has already carved out his own niche by becoming the first player born after Wenger took over in 1996 to score a competitive goal for the club, but Henry hinted Nketiah could be more than a flash in the pan.
At the double: Eddie Nketiah (AFP/Getty Images)
He wrote on Twitter: “What a night for @EddieNketiah9. So happy for him and not surprised at all!” It was a message Nketiah responded to with gratitude. His followers on the social media site stood at around 17,000 on Tuesday night but had nearly doubled to around 31,000 on Wednesday morning.
Noises inside the club around Nketiah are positive. He has scored 48 goals in the past two seasons at youth level and is described as both a grounded character and versatile talent.
After making his debut as an 89th-minute substitute against BATE Borisov last month, few would have expected such a significant step forward so soon.
Chelsea certainly would not have, having released Nketiah as a youngster amid concerns over his stature. He is walking tall now.