Mikel Arteta says two of Arsenal’s next generation of stars are moving in the right direction after a week in which Folarin Balogun bagged three Interlull goals for England’s under-21s and William Saliba earned his first cap for France.
The 20-year-old striker and 21-year-old centre-back are on loan at Middlesbrough and Marseille respectively until the end of the season but are expected to return to Arsenal in the summer with a view to challenging for a first team place in pre-season.
On Balogun’s development, Arteta said: “I think Flo is doing what he needed to do and probably we should have done it a little bit earlier.
“It is always a bit difficult to time when is the best moment to do that. But he’s having the right exposure, he’s playing in a different formation and sometimes a different role under a manager and a club with a huge history.
“You can see how he is developing, so this is giving us information. This is going to give us more detail about what is the next best move for him to keep developing, because he has (developed) and we want him to be part of our future.
“The step is too big from what he was doing [with the under-23s] to the Premier League and we could see that. It was not fair on him to just assess in certain [Premier League] moments whether he could do it or not.
“He needed a pathway, he needs the exposure, he needs to go through good and difficult moments, he needs to be able to adapt and find himself in a dressing room and develop the importance that he’s going to require to play at this level. I think he’s doing all of that really well.”
Unlike Balogun, who has featured for the Gunners’ first team both this season and last, Saliba’s long wait for a senior debut under Arteta continues.
The defender is on loan for the third time since signing from Saint-Etienne in 2018 and some have questioned whether he’ll ever get his chance.
A call-up from Didier Deschamps to represent the reigning world champions should boost his confidence after a solid season at the Stade Velodrome.
“I haven’t spoken to him since then [his France debut] but obviously we are really aware of what he is doing and how he is developing,” said Arteta.
“He’s our player and we are really happy with the decision that we made. He is getting the minutes and the exposure, responsibility and the growth at his age was not something we could guarantee here this season.
“And it makes a lot of sense what is happening with him and we are glad to see the way he is improving.”