Arsenal

Per Mertesacker reveals Folarin Balogun fate amid new Arsenal transfer strategy to save millions

Things may be going badly for the first team at Arsenal right now, but at academy level it’s generally looking a lot brighter.

Regardless recent back-to-back losses Kevin Betsy’s Under-23 side are very much in the hunt for the Premier League title having scored more goals than any other team in the division.

Further down the age groups the Hale End pipe line that has produced current first-teamers such as Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles seems to be continuing, with talented youngster Amani Richards the latest to commit his future to the club after signing his first professional contract this week.

Despite this though, there is still a level of uncertainty over the future of the Gunners’ most exciting young prospects.

Folarin Balogun has not started for Mikel Arteta’s first team since the opening day defeat to Brentford, and although he has scored an impressive 16 goals in just 13 appearances at Under-23 level this season, that does not look like changing any time soon, with Eddie Nketiah currently ahead of him in the pecking order.

“I think the closest, at the moment, to make that step is Flo Balogun,” said the German when asked which youngsters Arsenal fans should be keeping an eye on.

“He’s transferred in to the first team dressing room. He still plays 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.”

The move is likely to give the Hale Ender some much needed senior experience as Arsenal to look to their academy more to provide quality options for their senior squad.

Mertesacker revealed that this is part of a long-term transfer strategy aimed at reducing the necessity for the kind of huge spending spree that saw Edu pay around £150million in transfer fees to bring in Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Benjamin White, Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale and Takehrio Tomiyasu over the summer.

“You can’t always predict,” the German said when asked about the difficulty when guessing which players would be able to make the step up from the youth teams to senior level.

“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.

“Edu and Mikel have done a lot last summer, but that’s not sustainable for us as a football club.

“We’re not going to do that on a consistent basis so we need to make sure that the flow of top players from the academy is constantly there. So they don’t need to look to the market. We made a big effort, but that’s not sustainable for us in the future.”

Aside from just providing players for the first team though Mertesacker also admitted that loaning players out was a policy the club have embraced with a view to providing extra funds to compete with their wealthier rivals in the transfer market, in a similar manner to what Chelsea have done in the past few years under the ownership of Roman Abramovich.

“With loans, I think roughly two years ago we started to put more emphasis on the loan market, on having more players in the system,” the 37-year-old said.

“We will go up to 20 players roughly potentially next summer who will go on loan.

“We’re looking at players who have probably played 23s football for a year or 18 months maximum because that is what we believe is worth the experience. Because if a player has played 20 or 25 games at PL2 plus a few games in the Papa John’s Trophy, they need to go to that next step towards adult’s or men’s football. So this is kind of a threshold.

“Then it depends on injuries, but we say between 12-18 months should be enough to prepare them for that experience.

“Then it’s all about collaboration and what the market says. We don’t have a partner club who we can ship out players to where we can say ‘do you want to take five of our Under 23 players?’ We need to build relationships with other clubs right now and in the future where they’re keen on taking Arsenal players into their system.

“Then it’s a collaboration between the player, the agent, the parents and the club to find the best opportunity.

“Sometimes we will say to the loan club, we want to develop a strength and a playing style so they’re what an Arsenal player looks like. Then sometimes it’s the opposite where you develop a few other areas, so we send them to a club that might not have a similar playing style, but it will give them what they need to reach the top and play at the top level.

“So it’s not a situation where we say every player goes to this club. It’s not a one size fits all whatsoever.

“It’s massive for us, I think, to create value, and to have good successful loans at stages where they start at League Two and then they step up to League One and the Championship. That creates players not only to have players in the first team, but to have players who can be of great value.”

OPEN IN FULL

Adblock Detected

Adblocker detected! Please consider reading this notice.

We've detected that you are using AdBlock Plus or some other adblocking software which is preventing the page from fully loading.

We don't have any banner, Flash, animation, obnoxious sound, or popup ad. We do not implement these annoying types of ads!

We need money to operate the site, and almost all of it comes from our online advertising.

Please add yourdomain.com to your ad blocking whitelist or disable your adblocking software.