Eddie Nketiah knows what it’s like to feel rejection in his career. The 20-year-old was released by Chelsea at the age of 14 as they deemed him ‘too small’.
That would dent the confidence of most young players yet Nketiah came back stronger, going on to join Arsenal and dominate the academy games which made him one of the hottest prospects at Hale End.
Seven years on from being released, Nketiah is England’s Under-21s all-time record goalscorer and vying for a place in the starting line-up alongside Alexandre Lacazette.
Indeed, Lacazette was a player who himself would have felt rejection this summer as Arsenal actively looked to move him on from the club. There was interest from Atletico Madrid but nobody could stump up the cash for a player Arsenal value at £40million plus.
Nketiah, who scored five goals in 19 appearances during a loan spell with Leeds last season, admitted that he has worked hard on improving his physique over the past few months, as he looks to compete for a place in Arsenal’s starting XI.
Arsenal continued their winning start to their Europa League campaign against Dundalk
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“During lockdown, I worked really hard on getting bigger and better on the ball. I’ve used the time well and it’s good people can see the hard work,” said Nketiah.
“It’s something I wanted to do. As you go through the levels, it gets a lot harder physically so to be able to show your technique, you need that strength to cope with it.
“It’s nice to show that off a bit on the pitch.”
After returning from his loan spell at Leeds, Nketiah forced his way into Mikel Arteta’s plans where he scored four goals in 10 appearances.
He’s impressed in a number of cameo appearances this season and his highlights include scoring the winner against Leicester in the Carabao Cup third round tie at the King Power Stadium.
What is Nketiah’s rise down to? According to the man…