Arsenal’s Nigerian-born duo of Folarin Balogun and Arthur Okonkwo have received a stern charge from The Gunners’ coach, Mikel Arteta, as the gaffer says both youngsters have to lay claim to regular spots in the main team.
While acknowledging that Balogun and Okonkwo both justified their promotions with tremendous performances over recent years in the youth ranks, Arteta went on to affirm that that the days of real work are just starting for them.
Megasportsarena.com reports that Arteta praised both lads for what they have done thus far, but stressed that they cannot afford to rest on their oars, as they get set to embark on their first full season as senior professionals.
That has set the stage for Balogun and Okonkwo to hit the ground running this term, with Arteta adding that they were promoted to Arsenal’s first team because they raised the level of the club’s academy.
The 19-year-old Balogun arrived at the age of nine and has seen his speedy development in the youth ranks rewarded with senior recognition in the past campaign, while also featuring in five UEFA Europa League games.
Similarly, Okonkwo, who is also 19 years old, teamed up with the London-based club’s senior team after signing a long-term contract earlier this month at Emirates Stadium.
However, while affirming that both players have come of age, Arteta stressed that they must keep working hard to actualise their ambitions of becoming regulars in his team when the new campaign commences.
Arteta told Arsenal Media: “It is great. It is just a small step, but now the bigger step is trying to become a regular in the first team.
“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.”