Mikel Arteta’s soft spot for Eddie Nketiah complicates “clear project” at Arsenal


Folarin Balogun continues to struggle for minutes at Arsenal despite retaining the faith of Mikel Arteta with the inclusion of Eddie Nketiah complicating matters

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Arteta gives update on Nketiah’s contract negotiations with Arsenal

Mikel Arteta maintains there is a “clear plan” with Folarin Balogun after he was left out of Arsenal’s win against Leeds as he attempts to juggle his options.

The young forward, who extend his deal recently, was handed his first ever league start in the season opening defeat at Brentford, but has hardly featured since.

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Eddie Nketiah instead got the nod in attack for the Carabao Cup win over Leeds on Tuesday night.

Both players are behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the pecking order, so opportunities have been at a premium.

Arteta is convinced that Balogun is making “the right steps” despite his lack of game time and will assess his next move come the end of the calendar year.

“We will see what happens. Again, with Flo we have a really clear project,” he said.

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Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun are both seeking more minutes

“The steps that he’s making, they are the right steps.

“Don’t forget he is really young, he hasn’t played almost any professional football, and you need to go through every phase – and don’t try to jump phases when you are not ready to do so.

“Again I’m really happy with him, he’s making the right progress and in December we will see where we are and what’s the best for him as well.”

Balogun’s development and lack of minutes are no doubt hampered by Arteta’s want to give Nketiah an opportunity.

The striker, whose contract expires in the summer, was close to a summer move to Crystal Palace.

He hasn’t even featured in a Premier League matchday squad, but has scored in both his appearances in the cup.

Arteta is desperate for the 22-year-old to remain at the Emirates, given how highly he rates him.

“We had a situation in the summer that we tried to resolve and we couldn’t either way. That’s the contract situation,” added the Arsenal boss.

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“It’s more and more common in football with where we are coming from with COVID and a lot of the issues that we have to resolve. I have full belief that he’s going to be a top, top player and hopefully at Arsenal.

“I’m so happy to have him in the team. He’s our player and I consider him and regard him really highly. From my side I want him to stay.”

Nketiah scored Arsenal’s second on Tuesday night after Calum Chambers had opened the scoring against the Yorkshire side.

The Gunners are now into the quarter-finals of the cup after extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight.

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