Folarin Balogun is set to start for Arsenal in their Premier League opener against Brentford on Friday night.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were expected the match for the Gunners at the Brentford Community Stadium, only for the pair to be ruled out late with illness.
Meanwhile Eddie Nketiah is also out injured after sustaining an ankle injury in the pre-season defeat to Chelsea, and Gabriel Martinelli has just returned from winning the Olympics with Brazil.
All this means that Mikel Arteta has decided to go for Balogun, with the Hale Ender set to lead the line in his first ever Premier League start.
It’s quite the turnaround for the 20-year-old who looked for much of last season as though he was going to leave the club on a free this summer.
This was despite his impressive form in the Europa League for Arsenal where he scored a goal every 32 minutes across a string of substitute appearances.
However, he was convinced to stay and is now set to be given Premier League game time earlier than expected as the Gunners look to solve their striking crisis.
It is not yet clear who will start on the left wing, for Arteta’s side tonight, with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli among the contenders, while Nicolas Pepe could switch over from the right flank where he has spent much of pre-season.
It’s a big show of faith in Balogun from Arteta, who has previously backed the 20-year-old along with his fellow academy graduate Arthur Okonkwo to do well this season after securing their promotion to the first team.
“It is great,” he told Arsenal Media in July. “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.
“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.”
“Both of them are really different but at the same time very similar,” he added. “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.
“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.”
You can follow full coverage of Arsenal’s Premier League opener against Brentford with football.london ‘s Gunners writers Kaya Kaynak and Chris Wheatley on our live blog here.
Source by Football London