Christian Atsu says he must push himself to “another level” – so he can stay in Newcastle United’s team.
Atsu arrived in England four years ago.
I just need to work hard and try to compete with my colleagues. - Atsu
Only now, however, is the winger playing regular Premier League football.
Atsu has started the club’s first three league fixtures.
And Atsu – who joined Newcastle on a permanent deal in the summer following last season’s successful loan – hopes to keep his place for Sunday’s game against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.
The 25-year-old, just back from international duty with Ghana, is determined to cement his place in Rafa Benitez’s starting XI.
“I’m very happy that I’m playing week in, week out,” said Atsu, who faces competition from Jacob Murphy and Rolando Aarons.
“There’s a lot of competition in the game, so I just need to work hard and try to compete with my colleagues.
“I’m also happy for my friends on the pitch.
“Anytime I’m on the pitch, I want the club to win. I want to do something for the club.
“For me, it’s very important that I keep working.”
United had hoped to sign Kenedy on a season-long loan from Chelsea in the summer transfer window.
However, the proposed move for Atsu’s former Stamford Bridge team-mate was blocked by the Premier League champions before last week’s transfer deadline after manager Antonio Conte failed in a bid to sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal.
Atsu, however, feels Benitez does have a “lot of talent” at St James’s Park.
Aarons, 21, is pushing for a league start, while 22-year-old Jacob Murphy, a £12million summer signing from Norwich City, is patiently waiting for an opportunity.
Atsu – who scored five league goals in United’s Championship-winning campaign last season – believes the competition will bring the best out of him over the coming weeks and months.
“We have a lot of talent,” said Atsu, who played two full games for Ghana during the international break.
“We have great players who are playing also wide, the same position as I play.
“I need to push myself to another level.”
United lost their first two Premier League games this season.
However, Newcastle recorded a victory at the third time of asking.
Joselu, Ciaran Clark and Aleksandar Mitrovic netted in a convincing 3-0 home win over West Ham before the international break.
Reflecting on the victory, Atsu said: “We’re happy that we won our last game going into the internationals.
“We made our fans very happy and also got a clean sheet, which was a fantastic result.”
There was intense pressure on Atsu and his team-mates following defeats to last season’s runners-up Tottenham Hotspur and newly-promoted Huddersfield Town.
“We needed to win this game said Atsu, who signed a four-year deal at St James’s Park in May.
“We lost two games in a row and were unhappy about it.
“We wanted to win this game. You could see the determination on the pitch.
“Everyone was fighting. Everyone was very happy, and we have confidence to move forward again.”
Benitez’s side out-played and out-fought West Ham, whose manager Slaven Bilic is under pressure himself at the London Stadium after three successive league defeats.
“We were very aggressive and won the second balls,” said Atsu.
“We were compact, and didn’t give them chances to create for themselves. We made things difficult for them.
“We had a very good counter-attack and created a lot of chances.”
Atsu played 90 minutes for Ghana in Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier against Congo in Brazzaville, which his team won 5-1.
The Accra-born player also played the full game in a home fixture against Congo on Friday night. Atsu set up Ghana’s goal in a 1-1 draw.
Atsu and his international team-mates are third in their World Cup qualifying group with two games left to play.
Meanwhile, Renato Sanches, Swansea’s new signing, could make his debut against Newcastle.
The 20-year-old midfielder joined the club on a season-long loan from Bayern Munich last week.
Striker Wilfried Bony, re-signed from Manchester City for £12million, could make his second Swansea debut against United.