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'So proud of him': Per Mertesacker hails 'brilliant' 6ft 2in Arsenal talent

Arsenal academy manager Per Mertesacker has singled Gunners defender Daniel Ballard out for praise.

The 22-year-old joined the Arsenal academy aged eight and has worked his way through the ranks.

Mertesacker admits Ballard was nearly released twice, but he has worked hard to where he is now.

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The 6ft 2in centre-back is currently on loan at Millwall, where he has made 11 competitive appearances.

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Last season, he was on loan at Blackpool and helped the Lancashire club earn promotion to the Championship.

Ballard has also won 10 caps for Northern Ireland at senior level and is loved by his nation’s fans.

Hale End has produced some top talents over the years – Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are currently dazzling in Mikel Arteta’s team.

Given Ballard’s trajectory, surely he’ll be one that Arsenal’s first-team coaches will monitor closely next pre-season.

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And Mertesacker is delighted with how Ballard has developed in the academy to create such a good pathway for himself.

“You get players like Dan Ballard, whose development we are really proud of,” Mertesacker told the Arsenal website.

“He was nearly released twice. To come back, work his way up and create a pathway for himself – I’m just so proud of him.

“He’s now a reliable defender, playing international football for Northern Ireland and scoring for Millwall in the Championship. It’s brilliant to see.

“That’s an example of staircasing – taking your time in our system, because there will be a pathway for you if you perform at the right time. 

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