Arsenal‘s academy manager Per Mertesacker has picked out Folarin Balogun as the most likely youngster to make the step up to the first-team – but reveals he is likely to be sent out on loan in the January transfer window.
The 20-year-old striker, who was born in New York, has already played nine times for the first time, mostly in cup competitions.
Folarin Balogun is expected to leave Arsenal on a loan deal in the January transfer window
Balogun has been tipped by Per Mertesacker to make the step up to the first team at Arsenal
‘I think the closest, at the moment, to make that step [to the first team] is Flo Balogun,’ Mertesacker said this week, as reported by the Metro.
‘He’s transferred in to the first-team dressing room.
‘He still plays Under-23s football and probably most likely will go on loan in January because you need extra exposure to get to that next level so he needs to make that transition.’
Arsenal have spent big in recent years, bringing in the likes of Ben White, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares, Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale.
Mertesacker (second right) is currently the academy manager at his former club Arsenal
Striker Balogun, 20, is one of the biggest prospects in England’s Under 21s team, too
That said, there is still a healthy mix of purchased talent and academy graduates in the team, with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka among the talented youngsters who have come through the age groups.
‘You can’t always predict [who will make the step up],’ Mertesacker continued. ‘I think Emile and Bukayo got their chances and performed really well.
‘We won against Chelsea and then a couple of games so these are the moments you have to take advantage of.
‘But which player is then able to and has prepared himself for that moment to come? To play well enough for the manager to say, “Listen, he’s ready and he can make the step up, he’s part of the first team, we don’t need to buy a player for 30 or 40 million”, which is not sustainable.’