Arteta: Why Balogun and Okonkwo were promoted to Arsenal first team


Folarin Balogun and Arthur Okonkwo were promoted to Arsenal’s first team because they raised the level of the club’s academy, according to manager Mikel Arteta.

Balogun, 19, linked up with the Gunners at the age of nine and has seen his speedy development in the youth ranks rewarded with senior recognition in the 2020-21 campaign – featuring in five Europa League games.

For goalkeeper Okonkwo – who is 19-years-old – he teamed up with the club’s senior team after signing a long-term contract with the Emirates Stadium giants.

Even at that, the Spanish tactician stated they must keep working hard to actualise their ambitions of becoming regulars in his team when the 2021-22 campaign commences.

“It is great. It is just a small step, but now the bigger step is trying to become a regular in the first team,” Arteta told Arsenal Media.

“That is a small step compared to the next step they have to take.

“That is the first thing they have to realise; the hard work is not done yet. The hard work is going to start right now, and the expectations start right now and if they have this mentality, they have the potential, we believe in them and they will have the opportunities.

“Both of them are really different but at the same time very similar.

“They have both raised the level of the academy to a point that it wasn’t any more for them so we had to look to create the space around the first team for them to be able to develop in the way that we want them to.

“I think they are the right age and they have space in the squad to do that. They have the hunger and they showed the desire to stay at the football club and fight to become one of the first-team regulars.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s trip to the United States of America for the Florida Cup has been canceled based on the club’s desire to ensure the health and wellbeing of players and staff.

The North Londoners begin their campaign on August 13 with an away fixture against Frank Onyeka’s Brentford.

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