Eddie Nketiah admits he has been left feeling pure “frustration” at Arsenal, but he is ready to fire after being named England Under-21s captain.
The 21-year-old has started just once for the Gunners this year – in the FA Cup. While he has managed just 1o minutes of Premier League action in 2021. The striker has not featured in Arsenal’s last eight Premier League squads, but is ready to fire in Slovenia.
And the former Leeds loanee has been buoyed by being handed the captaincy. He will lead the Young Lions for the Euro 2021 group stage – which starts against Switzerland in Koper on Thursday.
Nketiah said: “It’s been a difficult last month or so, I haven’t played as much as I would have liked. I have been working hard and being dedicated which adds to the frustration but I have a great opportunity in front of me.
“Aidy (Boothroyd) has been really good with me and has been checking in on me. I have a big tournament ahead of me. In life there are always opportunities in front of you.
“The captaincy is a big responsibility. I’m grateful to have this opportunity, have fun and do my best to help the country achieve something special.
“We know how important it is to start off well, we have to make sure we are all at our best and if we get off to a good start it’ll put us in good stead.”
Nketiah top scored with 13 goals in qualifying to become the team’s 16-goal record scorer and boss Aidy Boothroyd believes he is the perfect pick for captain.
Nketiah backed by Boothroyd
“He is one of the leadership team, he is the record scorer which is huge when you consider he has beaten Alan Shearer,” he said.
“He is very humble, hard working and before you talk about his football and intelligence he is a good guy who everyone likes and respects. Eddie was the right choice.”
The Young Lions also face Portugal and Croatia in Group D in Slovenia. And Boothroyd believes the nature of the tournament – split up amid the coronavirus pandemic and to avoid clashing with the rearranged senior Euros – will aid his side.
“The tournament comes at a time which helps us, the players are in a rhythm,” he added, with the knockout phase in May and June.
“When I go through the squad the majority are all playing which really helps me because they can hit he ground running.
“We have to get past the group stages but it will help us. We have to get through April and qualify first and get to the knockout stages”