Eddie Nketiah has vowed to unleash his “frustration” at being frozen out of the Arsenal first team – and told boss Mikel Arteta he’s good enough to be in the Gunners team.
The 21-year old has been made captain of England U21s, who open their Euro Championship final campaign in the group stage match with Switzerland on Thursday afternoon.
It will be Nketiah’s first start since Arsenal lost 1-0 to Southampton in the FA Cup on January 23.
His last game time – a minute of action – came the week after against Manchester United.
Nketiah has told of his agony at dropping out of the Arsenal match day squad for the last eight games, with just one minute played in the last 11 matches.
U21 boss Aidy Boothroyd has kept faith with the striker who got 13 goals in qualification and overtook Alan Shearer as the U21s all-time leading scorer.
The youngster said: “It has been difficult. I have not played as much as I would have liked.
“I have worked hard and stayed dedicated and that has added to the frustration.
“It is a part of football but one that you don’t want to be involved in.
“I believe in my ability so obviously I think I am capable of playing and helping the team.
“It is frustrating not playing but you have to channel that frustration in a good way, use your time wisely to work hard and prepare for when that opportunity arises.
“I am grateful to have this opportunity to play at this tournament, to express myself and have fun, get a smile on my face again and play football. I want to do everything I can to help the team do something special.
“Aidy has checked in on me. I’m really grateful to have that support. It shows what a great person he is, not just as a coach, but as a person.
“When I’m not in the squad, I’m working hard, training like I always would. You get some more time to work on specifics. I’ve been trying to use my time wisely.”
Asked if he was happiest away with England, Nketiah said: “No I would just say I am happy to be playing football. I just want to be playing and enjoying my football wherever that is.
“I am away with England now so that is where my focus is but whenever you are playing – for club or country – as long as you are on the pitch you are happy.”
Boothroyd has confirmed his goal-machine will start the game but is worried about his match fitness.
“I do have some concerns and we’ve had to make sure we look after him in terms of his training,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to him a couple of times on a Saturday afternoon to see how he’s doing, because he’s not been in the squad and he’s in the gym.
“Physically, he’s tried to get in the best shape he possibly can for the tournament and he’s enjoying being back with us. He’s a key player for us, he’s a goal scorer.
“He is one of the leadership team, record scorer for the U21s which is a huge achievement, beating Alan Shearer’s. He is humble, hard working, even before his football. He is a good guy everyone respects. “
Nketiah added: “It is a major honour to have the responsibility of being the captain. I was delighted and smiling when I was told! It is even more special going to a big tournament. Hopefully we can guide the team to success.”