NIGERIAN-born teenager Arthur Okonkwo has signed a new long-term contract with English Premier League giants Arsenal and has been promoted to the Gunners first team ahead of the forthcoming 2021/22 season.
Okonkwo, 19, has been at Arsenal for 10 years and impressed enough last season that he was one of the youngsters regularly brought into first-team training. He has also represented England at U16 level where he won three caps, U17 with three caps and U18 level where he won four caps.
Despite still waiting to make his first team debut, Okonkwo, who turns 20 in September, was on the bench three times in the Europa League last season. This year’s pre-season training could provide a good chance for him to prove his worth to manager Mikel Arteta with Arsenal currently suffering from a shortage of goalkeepers.
First choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno is on holiday after participating in Euro 2020 with Germany, while second choice Maty Ryan has left after his loan spell from Brighton. This leaves Okonkwo and Alex Runarsson as the only two goalkeeping options who have been exposed to the first team environment.
Arteta said: “We welcome Arthur to the first-team squad and we are so happy another academy player has come through our system at the club. Together with Arthur’s huge talent and hard work, we thank our colleagues at the academy for developing him in recent years to get to this stage, they are doing great work with the players’ development here and should be really proud.
“Arthur will now join us every single day in training, where we look forward to watching him continue to develop and improve his goalkeeping. I know all our fans will join me in congratulating Arthur on this positive step in his career.”
Eligible to play for both England and Nigeria, Okonkwo will wear the 33 shirt at Arsenal, which was last worn by Mat Ryan and before that Petr Cech. If Nigeria wants to secure his services at senior level, the Nigerian Football Federation will need to write to Fifa requesting a switch of nationality, given that he has featured for the England youth team.