Mikel Arteta makes promise to Arsenal youngsters after joining first-team

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Arsenal have reaped the benefits of their academy in recent years, with Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe and most notably Bukayo Saka playing first-team football to varying regular levels.

Now, there is a new crop of talented teenagers on the cusp of the senior side, including Folarin Balogun and Arthur Okonkwo.

The duo have both been a regular feature of Arsenal's opening two pre-season games on their tour of Scotland, where they have faced Hibernian and Rangers respectively.

Balogun has become somewhat of a big name among the Arsenal faithful without actually featuring too often, as the striker was subject of interest from a number of different clubs across the continent, including Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen.

Mikel Arteta has explained what inspired the club to promote Folarin Balogun and Arthur Okonkwo to the first-team (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

However, the 20-year-old New York-born forward opted to commit his future to the Emirates, penning a new four-year contract to keep him in North London until 2025.

Balogun is yet to get on the scoresheet for the Gunners this pre-season, while goalkeeper Okonkwo actually made a disastrous mistake in the 2-1 defeat against Hibernian.

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However, boss Mikel Arteta remains confident the two have a bright future at the club.

Speaking to Arsenal's website, Arteta said: "It is great, it is just a small step, but now the bigger step is trying to become a regular in the first team. That is a small step compared to the next step they have to take.

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"That is the first thing they have to realise, the hard work is not done yet. The hard work is going to start right now, and the expectations start right now and if they have this mentality they have the potential, we believe in them and they will have the opportunities."

Arteta went on to explain how the pair have outgrown the academy ranks due to their obvious talent, claiming: "Both of them are really different but at the same time very similar.

Folarin Balogun has already scored twice for Arsenal's senior side in the Europa League (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)
(Image: (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images))

"They have both raised the level of the academy to a point that it wasn’t any more for them so we had to look to create the space around the first team for them to be able to develop in the way that we want them to."

The Spaniard went on to explain how he is optimistic over their chances of making an impact at the highest level.

"I think they are the right age and they have the space in the squad to do that and they have the hunger and they showed the desire to stay at the football club and fight to become one of the first-team regulars."

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