Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has told the Evening Standard that what changed his mind over the decision to offer Folarin Balogun a new contract at the Emirates Stadium.
The youngster made his first-team debut for the Gunners in a Europa League tie against Dundalk earlier this season – and is with the squad for tonight’s game against Molde in Norway.
Arteta has placed his faith in the club’s younger talents during his time in charge and Balogun could be the next gem to emerge from the club’s never-ending conveyor belt.
The 19-year-old was linked with a move to Sheffield United during the summer, with the Blades unwilling to match Arsenal’s £15 million valuation for the striker.
A shining light for the club’s youth ranks, the striker didn’t think the pathway towards first-team stardom was clear.
Arteta was quizzed on what had changed his thought process over Balogun ahead of tonight’s game with Molde and he’d dearly like the teenager to stick around.
He told the Evening Standard: “I have decided that I want to keep the player.
“The moment that I started to see more of the player and change certain things that I didn’t agree with, we decided to give it a go, tried to convince the player, try to show him what we want to do with him, why he fits in with what we’re trying to do.
“The young talent and the top talent that we produce at the academy is the final aim to put them in the first team.
“When I signed for this club it was one of the things that excited me the most because I love to work with them. It’s part of the DNA and the history of the club.
“When we have them, let’s keep them and we really think they are players that can take us to the next level.”
TBR View – Balogun a future star and Arsenal must act
The youngster had a right to be fearful of his first-team chances being restricted but Arteta should have done enough to convince him.
Since he arrived at the club, the Spaniard has not been afraid to hand the club’s younger players a chance to prove themselves.
That should give Balogun confidence. If he can keep impressing the boss in training, first-team opportunities will be just around the corner.
The talent is quick, strong and has a natural-born instinct in front of goal.
He has the potential to be a real star for Arsenal and they must pull out the stops to ensure he doesn’t walk away next summer.