Mikel Arteta says he’s still trying to persuade Folarin Balogun to commit his long-term future to Arsenal but admits it’s hard to give the youngster regular game time at the moment with other players ahead of him in the striker pecking order.
The 19-year-old continues to train with the first team on a regular basis despite suggestions he’s on the verge of signing a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club. The likes of RB Leipzig and Stuttgart have been tipped to snap him up when he becomes a free agent in the summer although Arteta maintains he’s unaware of a deal being done.
Asked if Balogun’s chances were being deliberately limited as a result of the speculation, the boss said: “If anything, regarding his contractual situation with the club, I just want to convince him that he has a future at the club. I’m not sending the opposite message.
“Before, he wasn’t training with the first team. We changed that. He’s been training with us a lot, he’s improving every single day, he’s showing a real hunger and desire to be with us.
“We’re trying to get something done. We want him to stay. We’re going step-by-step and he’s made some big steps in the last few months. He wasn’t even training and then he’s had a few good games for us. The steps are there in every way. We’re trying to keep him.”
Pushed to clarify why the Academy striker, who has scored twice in the Europa League this season, didn’t make the squad for the FA Cup win over Newcastle, the boss added: “Because of the competition we have in some positions, there are other players who’ve not had many minutes and they played in the FA Cup. It takes time.
“We have to respect that pathway. Eddie [Nketiah] as well is not playing a lot recently as well. He is in front of him at the moment. We have to be calm and respectful.”