Matthew Smith has signed his first professional contract with Arsenal, the club announced on Monday.
Arsenal revealed that 18-year-old Smith had signed his first professional deal with the club just a couple of days after the youngster notched his 10th assist of the campaign against Leicester City. You can check all of them out in the video below:
The midfielder generally plays deep in midfield, but he nonetheless has four goals to add to his 10 assists in 15 league games. The next step is to find a way into the u23 side, where he has competition from the likes of Charlie Gilmour, Joe Willock and Robbie Burton.
He did make his first start for the top academy side this season, and he told the Arsenal website he’s hoping for another chance or two before May, even if his focus is mostly on success with the u18s.
“I’ve set myself some targets,” Smith said. “I want to get some more goals and assists in the under-18 league and then get some more appearances for the under-23s. Overall, as a team, I’d say our ambition this season is to win the under-18s league.”
The midfielder confirmed in his post-signing interview that he’s always been an Arsenal fan, and to play for the club from the age of seven until his first professional deal just makes it all the more special.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he continued. “Arsenal is a massive club and I’ve supported it my whole life. I’ve been here since I was seven, so this is a really proud moment.
“There’s been some good times and some bad times, it’s obviously a big change to move from Hale End to here, but I think that I’ve adapted well. Although it took a little bit of time, now I just want to keep on working hard and keep on improving.”
Congratulations to Smith on his new deal! Hopefully, he can help the u18s to capitalise on their position at the top of the u18 Premier League by lifting the trophy at the end of the season.
Arsenal have signed a couple more youth players up to new contracts recently, click ‘Next’ to find out who they are.
Folarin Balogun has signed his first professional contract with Arsenal, the club announced on February 13th.
Arsenal posted the update on the club website, revealing that the 17-year-old had put pen to paper on a new professional deal in North London. The news comes as a relief to followers of the academy sides, who saw the player’s 17th birthday come and go without a new deal last July. Fortunately, his situation is now resolved.
Balogun has been the u18s’ in-form striker this season, with 13 goals and two assists in 15 league matches. He also scored two goals and assisted one in three FA Youth Cup games before Arsenal’s elimination from the competition.
The England and USA u18 international has made a couple of appearances from the bench for the u23s as well, though he’s currently behind Tyreece John-Jules and Eddie Nketiah for the top academy side.
Speaking to the Arsenal website, Balogun admitted that things are going well for him this year, and he’s hoping to finish the campaign as the u18 Premier League top scorer.
“It’s been a good season so far and I’m scoring a lot of goals, so I just want to keep scoring and continue helping the team week in, week out,” Balogun said. “Individually my goal is to finish the season as the top goalscorer in the U-18 Premier League.
“It’s really good (seeing Emile, Joe and Eddie in the first team). You see them every day walking around the academy, so it makes you think if they can do it, why can’t I?”
Let’s hope Balogun can follow in the footsteps of the trio of academy graduates. Congratulations to the youngster on his new deal!
Click ‘Next’ for another young player who recently signed a new deal
James Olayinka has signed his first professional contract with Arsenal, stepping up from his previous status as a second-year scholar at the club.
Arsenal confirmed in late January that Olayinka had signed professional terms with the club. The 18-year-old has made the step up from the u18s to the u23s this season, having progressed through the club ranks ever since he was seven years old.
Given all the talent in the youth teams at the moment, Olayinka has had to show his versatility by filling in wherever the u23s need him. He’s played as a central midfielder for the most part, but he’s also appeared in every available position on the right-hand side, as well as once at left-wing too.
The teenager has also spent some time training with the Arsenal first team this season (per Jeorge Bird), so Unai Emery has had a chance to get a look at him.
Recently, Olayinka impressed in Arsenal’s 5-2 FA Youth Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur. When the midfielder came on at half-time, the u18s were 2-1 down, but they got back into the match with his help.
Olayinka’s main position as a deep-lying midfielder means he doesn’t get involved in the goals very often, although he did set up Tyreece John-Jules’ winner against Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the season.
Congratulations to James on his new deal, and good luck to him with his continued development!