After the ‘will-he, won’t-he’ contract wrangles and agent-led set-backs from last season, most Arsenal fans were celebrating the fact that Folarin Balogun finally decided to extend his contract with the Gunners, with expectations of greatness after his incredible scoring record at all youth levels.
Now he has been rewarded with a first team place in Arteta’s squad this season with the shirt number 26, and he certainly feels ready to challenge Aubameyang, Lacazette and Nketiah for a first team spot.
Arteta seems to be trying to introduce the 20 year-old carefully, but after seeing Saka and Smith-Rowe make their big breakthroughs, perhaps Balogun can surprise us all just as much this year.
It is interesting to note that he scored twice for the senior team with less than 80 minutes on the pitch, and he was given half an hour against Millwall last week and still got on the scoresheet, and his confidence seems to know no bounds.
He was interviewed by Arsenal.com ahead of tomorrow’s Mind Series game against Chelsea, and he has admitted that he enjoys the feeling of pressure. Balogun said: “I don’t see pressure as a negative – it’s a privilege. It’s always a good opportunity to show people what you can do.
“I’m really happy that the fans are there helping me, supporting me and it’s nice to know that they have expectations of me because I am confident that I can meet them.”
“I feel it’s important to be in the first team changing room with the rest of the players,”
“You feel like you are actually, fully involved.
“That’s something I’m really happy with, I feel like more a part of the set up and that helps on the pitch as well.
“I always back myself. The more you prepare for something, the more confident you get, so I just need to keep working hard and sharpening up my tools.”
Although Aubameyang has drawn blanks so far in pre-season, I feel sure that Arteta will keep him as his Number One striker, but with Eddie Nketiah (who has scored in his last two games) and Balogun breathing down his neck, we may well find ourselves unveiling another superstar youngster this season…