Mikel Arteta praised Eddie Nketiah’s fight to be in the picture to play for England after the Arsenal striker earned his first senior call-up.
Nketiah made the cut in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine and a friendly in Scotland.
The 24-year-old is England’s all-time record goalscorer at under-21 level but has yet to be given his chance in the senior ranks.
But that opportunity could come in the next couple of weeks and Arteta believes it would be just reward for the efforts of the Arsenal forward.
“I’m so pleased. If someone deserves to be in the England squad, that’s him,” he said.
“An academy player that had some moments when his pathway wasn’t very clear and he had to fight.
“I love his mentality, his work rate, how much he loves the game and how hard he’s fought to be recognised at that level. In this country, to play there is phenomenal.”
Nketiah had gone 14 games without a goal for the Gunners before breaking the deadlock in their Premier League opening-day win over Nottingham Forest.
He also came off the bench to score in the 2-2 draw with Fulham last weekend and will be pushing for a recall when Manchester United visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
“There are a lot of things that he has improved, first of all his decision-making, especially in certain phases in ball possession,” added Arteta.
“I think his aggression without the ball is intensive, the way he reacts to that. I think physically when you look at him, he is very different.
“I just had a picture of him, one of him when he was playing in (the academy) Hale End and to now and he is a different player and he’s worked so hard to achieve that.
“What I like the most is his mentality and this keeps evolving, because he’s never going to be satisfied. Never. And that’s the way he is.”
Nketiah, who hit an unrivalled 16 goals in 17 under-21 caps, feels he has now reached the top of the international football mountain.
“Obviously coming through the ranks as an academy boy and the youth groups at England, it’s a nice feeling to get that natural progression to go to the seniors,” he told arsenal.com.
“It’s the pinnacle of recognition for a player that represents England, so I’m really happy to be there and looking forward to meeting up with the boys.”