Mikel Arteta’s press conference was predicable I think. Has he signed and if not, when will he? It wasn’t that long ago the same questions were being asked about Bukayo Saka and whilst Arsenal fans fretted, the club remained confident he was staying. It’s been very similar for Folarin Balogun. Mikel Arteta has always been cool and confident, insistent that everyone at the club, including the player, wanted a new deal signed. The trouble is, the media interfered and hinted he was ready to walk away.
So, what happened?
Just by trying to, first of all, understand why he got to the point that he was really thinking about leaving the football club after being raised here and the feelings that he had built towards the club. Once you understand the position of him, then try to explain what you want to do, how involved he is going to be in the project and how. Then, get the full commitment from the club and support from Edu, who I think has done an incredible job as well.
Will Balogun will stay with the squad next season or go on loan?
First of all we have to sign him! Once we sign him, we go step-by-step and we’ll communicate with you guys on what we’re doing.
I think the latter question is tough to answer because between now and the summer anything could happen. However, Martinelli didn’t go out on loan and neither did Saka because when a player oozes talent and confidence, it’s better he builds his career around the first team players. Personally, I doubt he’ll go out on loan IF he signs because he’s a big and strong 19 year old who I think would cope with Premier League football. Then again, I thought similar about William Saliba.
Folarin Balogun was one of the six U23 squad players who trained with the Arsenal first-team at London Colney. Jeorge Bird reported that he together with Miguel Azeez and defenders Joel Lopez and Alex Kirk. Goalkeepers Karl Hein and James Hillson were also involved.
Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe were back in training but both Martin Odegaard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were absent so I’d imagine neither will have travelled to Prague. With a bit of luck, Balogun and Azeez will have.
Slavia Prague will again be without defender Ondrej Kudela, who had been suspended for the first leg but he’s since been banned for 10 further matches by UEFA for racial abuse against Rangers’ Glen Kamara in the their round fixture at Ibrox. Simon Deli and David Hovorka missed the first leg and they’ll miss this one too because of injury.
Arsenal need a goal tonight, preferably more so we don’t have to endure a nervy finish. We should be in a better position going into this fixture but frailties at the back and opportunities to score spurned at The Emirates means we’re not.
Slavia aren’t Sheffield Utd but nor are they a team to be feared. Respected of course, but no, not feared. Repeat the kind of performance from the weekend and we stand a very good chance of progressing through to the semifinals. Arsenal need to be ready when Slavia counter attack and don’t give away any set pieces as they are dangerous on both. Our front players need to put pressure on their keeper as in the home tie he looked nervous. I reckon there’s a mistake or two in him if pushed.
This is a big night for Arsenal, a big night for Mikel Arteta too. I hope his players to him proud. 95 minutes of commitment, energy and concentration. Get an early goal to settle any nerves and then go for the jugular. Or just win 1-0. Either will do as long as we go through.
See you in the comments.