Inside Eddie Nketiah's incredible rise from Chelsea heartache to Arsenal and England star via brutal cage football | The Sun

EDDIE NKETIAH has gone through a lot to make sure he succeeded in having a career at the top of football.

The striker has become a regular for Arsenal despite enduring some tricky periods earlier in his career.

Nketiah, 24, started his career at Chelsea but was rejected by the club when he was 14.

A decade later, he had become a regular member of the Arsenal first team under manager Mikel Arteta.

The forward's form and impressive start to the 2022/23 Premier League season saw him earn his first call-up to the senior England team by boss Gareth Southgate.

Nketiah had featured regularly for the Three Lions youth sides and even managed to net 16 goals in 17 appearances for the U21s.


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Chelsea heartache

Nketiah was one of a number of promising players in the club's academy in 1999.

The striker joined the likes of Mason Mount, Declan Rice, Conor Gallagher and Reece James.

He joined the club when he was nine and was prolific in the youth sides.

During this time when he would play away from club training, Nketiah would play football in a small caged pitch near his family home in South East London.

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He told Gaffer Magazine: "It was really hard playing in the cage.

"There’s a lot of pride there and everyone wants to show how good they are and what they can do.

"There’s a lot of trash talk going on in the cage and you’ve just got to have thick skin to get through it and show how good you are."

However, despite being a prolific goalscorer, Nketiah was released when he was 14 due to concerns over his height as the club preferred team-mate Tammy Abraham.

Arsenal beginnings

Nketiah was given a lifeline as he was picked up by Arsenal after being spotted by youth scout Ian Gilmour.

Gilmour had spotted the striker while scouting watching his son Charlie play against him for the Gunners' academy.

Nketiah was approached by Arsenal just two days after his release from Chelsea and quickly got the move sorted out.

Gilmour was not concerned over Nketiah's height however as he told The Athletic: "He had the power, he had the pace.

"Size doesn’t matter if you’ve got the power and the pace. And technically, he was so good."

After rising through the ranks in Arsenal's academy he eventually became a squad player in the first team in 2017 under legendary manager Arsen Wenger.

He made his debut for the club that year at just 18 in the Europa League win over BATE Borisov and he followed that with his second appearance coming against Norwich in the League Cup the following month.

Nketiah netted an equaliser within 15 seconds of coming on, endearing him to the Arsenal faithful.

He continued to make the occasional appearance and was eventually loaned to Leeds in 2019.

However, his loan was cut short in January 2020 due to a lack of game time and then saw a swap to Benudesliga outfit Augsburg canceled due to an injury to Danny Welbeck.

Arsenal struggles

Nketiah continued his career at the Gunners with managers Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta opting to keep hold of him after he impressed in training.

However, Nketiah was never given the starting role as he would continue to star in the cup competitions but fail to be prolific in the Premier League.

Nketiah had continually found himself behind more established strikers such as Olivier Giroud, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

In January 2022, Crystal Palace were very keen on signing Nketiah as his contract only had six months left to run at Arsenal.

Nketiah had hardly played that season and it seemed that his time at the Emirates was coming to an end.

However, a move never materialised and he stayed at the club he was expected to leave the club in the summer window on a free transfer.

That was until he agreed on a new five-year contract to stay at the club till at least 2027.

But it seemed that his problems would persist as Arteta signed Manchester City star Gabriel Jesus that summer and made him the first-choice striker for the 2022/23 season.

Arsenal breakthrough

Despite the arrival of the Brazilian international, Nketiah stayed put and fought for his spot.

The Englishman managed to get his chance in the Europa League as he started all six group games, scoring twice.

During this run, he made his 100th appearance for the club and was then buoyed as Jesus picked up a lengthy knee injury.

Nketiah made sure not to let the chance slip through his fingers as he would lead the attack for an extended period.

He would finish the season with nine goals and three assists in 39 appearances in all competitions.

While not the most impressive of numbers his attitude and contribution was enough to maintain Arsenal's title challenge against Manchester City.

Nketiah then started the 2023/24 season in an improved manner as he netted twice in the club's first four games.

The striker was in turn described as a "role model" by Arteta as he cemented his spot as an Arsenal player.

England call-up

Nketiah had opted to represent England despite being born to Ghanaian parents.

His improvement for Arsenal saw him earn national recognition in August 2023 as he was called up to the senior England team for the first time in his career.

Southgate hailed Nketiah's pedigree after giving him the call for the fixtures against Ukraine in the Euro qualifier and Scotland in a friendly.

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He said: "With Eddie coming in, it is an area where we want to have a look at him.

"Young player with a lot of pedigree, really good finisher, and the record goalscorer in the Under-21s."

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