Four Hale Enders who could step up to save Mikel Arteta and Edu millions in the transfer market


Now that Arsenal have come to the end of the season their focus is well and truly on the transfer market.

Mikel Arteta and Edu are looking to overhaul a squad that failed to qualify for European competition for the first time in 25 years and have promised to be “ruthless” in doing so.

Emi Buendia, Max Aarons, Yves Bissouma and Edmond Tapsoba are among the players who have already been linked with a potential summer move to the Emirates.

However, with money likely to be tight this summer due to the ongoing impacts COVID-19 and the lack of the financial leg up that comes with continental football, the Gunners may have to get creative when it comes to finding solutions to the problems that exist within the side.


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This campaign promoting youth from within has worked a treat, with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka stepping up to arguably save Arteta’s job.

With that in mind, as Arsenal look to save some pennies in the upcoming transfer market, there’s no reason why they couldn’t repeat the trick.

There are a highly-rated group of youngsters within the Hale End set-up who have impressed this season at under-23 level and could be ready to step up in 2021/22. Here football.london takes a look at a few of them.

Arthur Okonkwo

On the face of it, it’s difficult to see how a goalkeeper can really break into the Arsenal first team next season.

Bernd Leno is the established number one at the Emirates and with the Gunners competing in just three competitions next season, it’s unlikely that there will be too many opportunities.

But when you consider the fact that the Euros are taking place this summer then it’s easy to envisage a chance for a young stopper to come through the ranks for the first time since Wojciech Szczensy in 2011.

Leno has been called up to the Germany squad and after Marc Andre ter Stegen’s injury he will be back up to Manuel Neuer this summer. Die Mancshaft may be in a group of death with France, Portugal and Hungary this summer, but if they do end up going all the way it could render Arsenal’s number one out of action for the early part of the season.

With Mat Ryan having returned to Brighton and Runar Alex Runarsson simply not trusted by Arteta, the likelihood is that Arthur Okonkwo could be given a chance to shine next season.

The 19-year-old has been rotated as the Gunners’ third-choice goalkeeper in the Europa League knockout stages with Karl Hein and James Hillson, but seems to be ahead in the pecking order after training with the first team on many occasions recently.

There is no guarantee that he will stay right now as his contract is set to expire this summer, but football.london understands the club have opened talks with the young ‘keeper.



Arthur Okonkwo during a training session at London Colney (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arthur Okonkwo during a training session at London Colney (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Brooke Norton-Cuffy

Right-back appears to be something of a problem position for Arsenal right now.

The Gunners have four of them on their books in the first-team squad, but none really seem to have nailed down the spot as their own.

Hector Bellerin has had his chance but looks set to move on, while Cedric hasn’t featured since early April and Ainsley Maitland-Niles views himself as a central midfielder. Calum Chambers will be offered a contract extension this summer, football.london understands, but Arsenal are still reportedly on the hunt for a new recruit in this position.

Max Aarons, Tariq Lamptey and Achraf Hakimi are among the names who have been linked, but if the Gunners want to save some money they have a player in their youth ranks who looks a real prospect.

Brooke Norton-Cuffy is only 17 but has featured six times for the under-23s in the Premier League 2 this season.

At such a young age it might be a bit much to ask him to step and play at Premier League level next campaign, but when comes to the domestic cup competitions, Norton-Cuffy will be hopeful of getting some minutes.



Brooke Norton-Cuffy has signed his first professional contract with Arsenal.
Brooke Norton-Cuffy has signed his first professional contract with Arsenal.

Miguel Azeez

One player who has already been given a first-team opportunity this season is Miguel Azeez.

The 18-year-old only played seven minutes of Arsenal’s final Europa League game against Dundalk, but he could be ready to step up and shine next campaign.

The fact that he was included in a Premier League squad for the game against Sheffield United and in several of the travelling parties for knockout games in the Europa League this season shows just how highly Arteta rates him.

With Dani Ceballos having returned to Real Madrid and the futures of Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Joe Willock, Maitland-Niles, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny all up in the air, there is a chance that a spot in central midfield could open up.

Azeez, who has backed himself in the past to become “the best player in the world,” is certainly not short of confidence and will believe he could be the man to take it.

Folarin Balogun

The most likely on this list to feature at first-team level next season is Folarin Balogun.

The 19-year-old finally committed his future to Arsenal last month and despite not being rewarded with too many senior opportunities towards the end of this campaign, he could be in line for some more next time around.

Eddie Nketiah looks likely to leave the club with just one year on his deal, moving Balogun up the pecking order one place.

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football.london understands Alexandre Lacazette will be offered a one-year extension, but if he decides not to accept then the Gunners will probably want to move him on bumping the Hale Ender up another spot.

When you consider that Gabriel Martinelli has been called up to the Brazil squad for this summer’s Olympics then it seems Balogun will certainly get his chance to impress in pre-season, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the only senior striker ahead of him.

The youngster has had no problem in grabbing his opportunities so far after scoring a goal every 32 minutes in the Europa League this campaign and there’s no reason why he won’t be thinking he can do the same in 2021/22.





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