Mikel Arteta has confirmed that Arthur Okonkwo will feature against Rangers on Saturday as the boss looks to build the young goalkeeper’s confidence following a nervous debut against Hibernian on Tuesday.
Having been promoted to the first team squad last week, the 19-year-old was handed his first start at Easter Road but struggled to get to grips with the occasion.
Not only was his handling and distribution a little ropey, but he also made a mess trying to clear a bouncing back pass from Cedric allowing Hibs striker Martin Boyle to tap into an empty net.
While it was probably pre-planned, he was subbed at the break to be replaced by fellow debutant Karl Hein.
Ahead of the Gunners’ second match of pre-season, Arteta backed Okonkwo to improve.
“It was his debut, he was so excited,” he said. “He has earned his place in the first team with everything he has done at academy level. And unfortunately, that happened. But things will get better, he will have another chance on Saturday.
“So hopefully he can be better. He’s confident in his relationship with his teammates and everything. It’s time to support him, he’s our goalkeeper and we need to give him confidence.”
We’ve no doubt Arthur will improve. Rarely is a goalkeeper’s ascent to the top of the game plain-sailing. Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny and Emi Martinez all made early bloopers in Arsenal colours and they’ve done alright since…albeit elsewhere.