Folarin Balogun was with the Arsenal squad as the extra man against Everton once again, as he continues to push for first-team involvement.
Folarin Balogun didn’t make the matchday 20 to face Everton on Friday, but he was involved with the first-team squad for the third game in a row.
After making the bench and coming on as a substitute against Slavia Prague, Balogun joined the squad for their game against Fulham but didn’t make the bench, acting as the spare man in case of emergencies.
Balogun played the same role in the Everton match on Friday, spotted warming down with the team after the game.
As I’ve said before, it seems fairly clear that the reports of a new contract are behind this sudden more regular involvement, even if he’s still one player away from being on the Premier League bench.
You’d certainly expect Balogun to feature on the bench against Villarreal, given the three extra spots available in the Europa League. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang likely to return, it’ll be hard to get on the pitch, but you never know.
Still, I’d argue that it’s a bit disappointing Balogun wasn’t already on the bench in this week’s Premier League fixture. With Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette out, it was a good chance to give the teenager that first taste of being involved in the PL.
Mikel Arteta has been overly cautious with the likes of Balogun, Miguel Azeez, and Joel Lopez, all of whom could have been given more chances towards the end of the Europa League group stage.
That’s led to a situation where it’s much more of a gamble to involve them in matches that do matter.