The Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun is close to signing a new long-term contract, ending months of speculation about his future and disappointing the suitors who had hoped to land him on a free this summer.
Balogun is expected to sign the deal soon and it constitutes a significant boost for Mikel Arteta, who had risked losing a player sought across Europe. The list of alternative destinations had narrowed to three by January but Arteta had always professed confidence Balogun would commit to remain in north London rather than making a pre-contract agreement elsewhere and he has succeeded in persuading him to stay.
Although Balogun, who turns 20 in July, is yet to make a Premier League appearance there has long been excitement about his potential and the club have rebuffed seven-figure bids from domestic rivals in the past. He scored twice in 61 minutes of Europa League group stage action, across four substitute outings, this season and has long been a prolific scorer in age-group football. There were concerns that the pathway towards regular first-team football might be blocked given Arsenal’s stock of centre-forward options, but Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette are entering the final year of their deals and Arteta is expected to freshen up their attacking ranks this summer.
Arteta admitted recently that negotiations relating to Lacazette’s future had yet to begin, and Nketiah has not played first-team football since 30 January and there are question marks over his long-term role.
Balogun’s hopes of making a top-flight debut this season may hinge on Arsenal’s level of interest in the competition. They travel to Sheffield United on Sunday nine points behind the Champions League places and seven shy of likely Europa League football. Their fate in the latter is in the balance after Slavia Prague’s dramatic equaliser in their quarter-final first leg on Thursday night.