Arsenal youngster Arthur Okonkwo has heaped praise on the shoulders of both Bernd Leno and Alexandre Lacazette after signing a new contract at the Emirates Stadium, insisting the pair of them have played a key role in his introduction to the first-team squad.
The goalkeeper has committed his future to the Gunners by signing a new long-term contract at the Emirates Stadium and is now officially considered as a first-team player.
The 19-year-old, who has been on Arsenal’s books since playing at under-9 level, signed a scholarship deal at the club back in July 2018 and made good progress in rapid time, meaning he regularly trained with the first-team squad during the 2020/21 campaign.
However, now that he has penned a new long-term deal in north London, Okonkwo is officially considered as a first-team player, meaning he will be looking to earn his senior debut for the club in the not too distant future.
But considering that he has been in and around the first-team squad in recent months, the permanent step-up will not be too difficult for the youngster, with him already knowing members of Arteta’s senior squad, including both Leno and Lacazette, who he has admitted played significant roles in his introduction to the senior fold.
“I would say when I first went over, I would say Laca [helped me],” Okonkwo told Arsenal.com. “He always made me feel at home. With all the youngsters, he helps welcome everyone and speaks to you and tells you things to do, so he’s been a big help.
“I would also say Bernd. As a goalkeeper, he has made me feel very welcome from the first time I was up there with him so a big help from both of them.
“The goalkeepers’ union is the best thing in any club, it’s the closest family. We all help each other and for a goalkeeper you need that, wherever you are, it’s so helpful for all goalkeepers.”
The summer window is officially open, and it’s going to be tough to keep up with the comings and goings in and out of the Emirates.
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Having been training with the first-team squad for several months, Okonkwo will now be looking to take himself to that next step and earn some valuable minutes at first-team level to bolster his experience.
Detailing what Arteta has asked of him ahead of the new campaign, the goalkeeper added: “The boss has told me to get comfortable with the team.
“Get comfortable with the environment, and after that to push on, start to compete, and with the great goalkeepers we have here, I will be able to become a better goalkeeper.”