Mikel Arteta faced the media today ahead of his side’s FA Cup clash against Southampton on Saturday.
Predictably, most of the questions revolved around the transfer window. Arsenal have pushed Mesut Ozil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Sead Kolasinac and William Saliba out of the door this month.
Rob Holding recently penned a new deal while Emile Smith Rowe is reportedly on the verge of doing the same. However, the situation around Folarin Balogun hasn’t progressed like Arteta would have hoped.
The Arsenal boss claimed again that the club are trying to extend his deal, but there has been no breakthrough just yet. Arteta was quizzed as to why Balogun has been kept away from the Premier League squad, and his comments are worrying.
Arteta: Nketiah is ahead of Balogun in the pecking order
He said, as per Arsenal.com: “Because of the competition we have now and because there are other players that haven’t had many minutes and they’ve played in the FA Cup. It takes time.”
“We have to respect that with Eddie (Nketiah), he’s not been playing a lot recently as well and he’s in front of him (Balogun) at the moment and we have to be calm and respectful.”
Competition for places is certainly high but comments on Eddie Nketiah being ahead of Balogun in the pecking order is slightly worrying.
Yes, the Englishman, 21, is a lot more experienced than Balogun at the top level. However, he has been linked with a move away from the club, and with his contract expiring in 2022, Arsenal might well decide to cash in on him in the summer.
Alexandre Lacazette is another one whose future is up in the air. The Frenchman will have just a year left on his contract in the summer, and the fact that he will be 30 at the end of this season will make giving him a new deal a very risk move.
We could potentially end up in a situation where Lacazette, Nketiah and Balogun could leave the club in the summer. That would be a massive blow considering that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang down the middle hasn’t quite worked under Arteta.
Arteta should prioritise Balogun over Nketiah
Letting Balogun leave because Nketiah is ahead of him makes very little sense. The Englishman has barely played in our last few games, and even when he has, he has struggled to make a big impact.
Balogun arguably has a higher ceiling than the 21-year-old. If it comes down to it, Arsenal should prioritise keeping hold of the teenager over the Nketiah, even though the Englishman is a fantastic talent in his own right.
Sadly, Arteta’s comments hint that he’d rather stick with Nketiah. That almost certainly pushes Balogun out of the door which really is a shame.