The crucial role of patience and persistence in football

There have been many stories of players leaving their club to pursue a different journey and it not working out for them. A lot of what-ifs come with that. Some of the famous moves notorious for this have been the likes of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, Paul Pogba to Manchester United and Romelu Lukaku’s return to Chelsea.

Patience is something that is lacking in football these days, from both players and clubs. An example of someone who has shown the exact opposite to the normal is Eddie Nketiah. Making his senior debut for Arsenal in 2017 in the Carabao Cup fourth round against Norwich. On that occasion, he scored twice to send them through to the next round.

Lowest in the pecking order

Throughout Eddie Nketiah’s time at Arsenal, he has never been relied upon as the main man, with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Alexis Sanchez and Gabriel Jesus being ahead of him. This saw him join Leeds on loan in the summer of 2019. He then left in January, scoring five goals and assisting once during his time at Elland Road.

Mikel Arteta is someone who showed belief in him when he first took over as manager. Nketiah well and truly made a statement when he scored a brace against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a 4-2 win.

Taking his opportunities

The big breakthrough for Eddie Nketiah into the side was due to Gabriel Jesus’ unfortunate injury during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which saw him miss the second half of the season.

He led the line in a title race, and was showing signs of improvement as time went on, he was a player who like Jesus. Nketiah contributed more than just goals to the side. In the run of games he was given, he managed to score four goals and one assist. Two of the goals came in a big win over Manchester United.

After speculation that he was due to exit the club, he signed a new contract at the club. He turned down offers from multiple clubs from Premier League and Bundesliga sides, instead signing until the summer of 2027.

Something that should be pointed out is his attitude. When being asked about his role at the club, he said “I pride myself on always being ready and whatever role the manager needs me to fill, I will always make sure I do my best so I can help the team — that’s what it’s all about. The manager has got a tough decision and whenever he calls me, he knows I can deliver and I can help the team.”

At the start of the 2023/24 campaign, Jesus had to undergo surgery, which saw Nketiah leading the line. The 24-year-old has starting three of the four games so far, scoring goals. Jesus was available for the Manchester United clash, coming off the bench.

International recognition

Reports stated last year that Nketiah was on the verge of switching nationality to Ghana, but it never was finalised as he was not sure about the offer. It was worthwhile for him in the end, as patience led him to get his first England call-up.

It was a “proud moment” and “been quite the journey with a lot of ups and downs” in regards to the call-up. Nketiah’s story is amazing considering everything that he has worked for to get to this moment in his career, consistently starting for Arsenal and playing for England internationally.

The right mentality

Patience has proven worthy in this situation. Nketiah took the opportunities given and seldom sulked when he did not get a consistent run of games. Albert Sambi Lokonga complained about lack of playing time in the Amazon Documentary, while Nketiah was quick to say “stop feeling sorry for yourself and wake up”, and “you think you are the only only one not playing.” This alone proves the mentality Nketiah holds in knowing it takes hard work and consistency to be successful.

Some players should turn their heads to this story, because many are quick to leave their current projects because it is the easier option. However, the grass is not always greener on the other side, and hard work, consistency, and patience will prevail.

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