Mikel Arteta thinks Folarin Balogun will be pushing all of Arsenal’s first-team strikers for a spot in the team, after earning his chance at senior level.

Folarin Balogun of Arsenal celebrates his goal during the UEFA Europa League match between Molde and Arsenal on November 26, 2020 in Molde. Photo: Marius Simensen / BILDBYRAN
Folarin Balogun of Arsenal celebrates his goal during the UEFA Europa League match between Molde and Arsenal on November 26, 2020, in Molde. Photo: Marius Simensen / BILDBYRAN

With Arsenal set to announce Folarin Balogun’s new four-year deal, Mikel Arteta told the media that the extension was a significant step and evidence that the player believes his long-term future is in North London.

“It’s really important because it shows that he has enjoyed the time he’s been training with us and that’s why he wants to stay with us,” Arteta said. “He sees an opportunity here to have the career that he wants.

“Then, we needed to link that with the people at the club, with the right support from Per and the academy, and with the work that Edu has done over the months to undo what was happening and the direction the situation was taking.

“He has completely turned that over into a position where now the player is going to stay with us.”

Although the contract talks have certainly proven distracting and the Arsenal u23s have struggled as a unit, Balogun has still had a solid season so far.

The striker has scored 14 goals and assisted five more in 26 appearances this season – a goal contribution every 95 minutes across the u21s, the u23s and the first team.

Now, Arteta thinks he’s ready to start challenging the senior strikers for more minutes. Balogun made a substitute appearance in the Europa League quarter-final last week, and it looks like there could be more to come as 2021 goes on.

“He’s a very, very hungry boy,” Arteta continued. “He wants to do everything. He wants to practice more every single day.

“He has unique qualities as a striker – his speed and the way he holds the ball. He’s a real goal threat and he works tremendously hard.

“He will be pushing anybody in our first team to get his spot and that’s exactly what we want.

“He’s got the chance; now it’s time for him to prove himself. We have to give him the right support, which he will get, and then it’s up to him and what he does on the pitch.”

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.