Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said that by inviting him to first-team training sessions, he is trying to persuade Folarin Balogun to stay at the club.
While he was not included in the matchday squad in the Premier League, this season the 19-year-old was introduced as a backup in the Europa League and League Cup.
Balogun established at the Emirates Stadium through the ranks, but his contract is set to expire in June and contract extension talks are stalled by both parties.
In this season, he shone for Arsenal U23s, but his last active outing for Mikel Arteta’s side was back in December when he came on as a 77th-minute replacement in Manchester City’s 4-1 League Cup loss.
Arteta said in his media briefing when asked if Balogun’s lack of presence is due to his contract situation; “No. If anything, I just wanted to reassure him – about his contractual situation with the club – that he has a future at the club, not give him the opposite message.”
“We changed it before he was practicing with the first team, and he’s been training with us a lot. Every day, he’s changing, he’s showing real appetite and he’s chosen to be with us. Since we want him to stay and we have to go step-by-step, we are trying to get things done.
In the last few months, I think he’s taken some huge steps where he hasn’t even been practicing, and then he’s had some good games for us. So there are steps in every direction and we want to try to maintain him.
Balogun scored his first professional goal against Molde in November 2020 in the Europa League and so far he has two goals in four appearances in the tournament.
The Spanish coach also mentioned the competition for places as a reason for the lack of Balogun in his matchday squads ahead of the FA Cup trip to Southampton on Saturday, despite his fine run in Europe.