Mikel Arteta determined to keep hold of Folarin Balogun after goalscoring cameo

PA

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta praised Folarin Balogun’s cameo in the Europa League win over Dundalk and reiterated his desire to keep the teenage forward at the club.

The 19-year-old came off the bench to set up Joe Willock and score one himself as the Gunners won their final Group B game 4-2 in Dublin to advance to the knockout stages with a perfect record.

Eddie Nketiah had given the visitors the lead before a fine long-range strike from Mohamed Elneny had them two goals up – only for Jordan Flores to pull one back.

Balogun replaced Nketiah after 62 minutes and helped win the game for Arteta’s side, who conceded a second to Sean Hoare in the latter stages.

“He has done really well,” Arteta replied when asked about Balogun’s performance.

“Every minute that he has been on that field he has been superb. Today he looked a threat again.

“He scored a goal, he set up another one and he looked really lively and mature on that pitch.”

It was Balogun’s fourth senior appearance for Arsenal, all coming in this season’s Europa League, after a summer where his future was questioned.

A product of the club’s academy, his contract expires next summer and he has been linked with a move away – something Arteta insists he does not want to see.

“We are having some discussions with the player,” he added.

“He knows that we want to retain him at the club. We know the length of his contract at the moment is an issue, but we are trying to resolve it in the best possible way.

“We want him to stay. He said to me he wants to stay at the club, so hopefully we can reach an agreement and extend his contract.”

Six wins from six in the Europa League is in stark contrast to Arsenal’s Premier League form.

They sit 15th having won just four of their opening 11 fixtures and after defeat at Tottenham in the north London derby last weekend.

Arteta was spiky when asked if the free-flowing European displays – scoring 20 goals in six Europa League games compared to just 10 in the league – were what he wanted to see from his side domestically.

With the Europa League round of 32 not taking place until February, however, the Spaniard did suggest some of the players who have shone in the competition will now become a much-needed part of his Premier League squad heading into the festive period.

“Now we have to forget about the Europa League,” he added.

“Now focus on the Premier League strongly, with the Carabao Cup and then the FA Cup starting in January.

“Now we need everybody on board. Obviously we have a large squad. At the moment we have players back from injury, so we’ll have the opportunity to pick who is better in the moment. To still rotate some players, but that gives us more options as well in the Premier League to focus there and to get us the results that we need.”

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