Jack Henry-Francis has signed his first professional contract with Arsenal, and it’s fair to say the deal is long overdue.
Many of you will know the 18-year-old Republic of Ireland youth international from his first senior appearance in the friendly against Hibs in pre-season.
Henry-Francis certainly had to wait for this first professional deal. He’s been eligible for one for over a year, having turned 17 last September.
At the time, perhaps his form still left some doubts about handing him a professional contract. The defensive midfielder only made occasional appearances in the latter parts of 2020, and he certainly wasn’t a starter.
But from there, Henry-Francis really kicked on. He earned himself a starting role in the u18s in the early months of 2021, then he got his u23 debut, then that impressive display in first-team pre-season.
Mikel Arteta had praise for the youngster after that Hibs appearance.
“He has a lot of courage, wants the ball in tight areas and is technically very gifted,” Arteta said then. “You can see physically he’s not fully developed but his intelligence…his brain works quicker than his physique and he did really well when he came on.”
Henry-Francis has been back in the u18s at the start of the current campaign, largely due to the return to fitness of other u23 midfielders like Charlie Patino, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand, and Ben Cottrell, and the return from loan of James Olayinka.
It’s not easy to get into the u23 midfield right now, but Henry-Francis still has time to develop and grow in the u18s.
Now that he has his new deal, you’d expect him to get his chance to show what he can do eventually.