Folarin Balogun and other u23s join first-team training

Tim Akinola in training with Arsenal (Photo via Akinola on Instagram)

The international break is underway, with Arsenal already suffering their first injury scare on day one. 15 players are away with their countries’ senior sides at the moment, in addition to the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe with the u21s.

That’s left a bit of a gap back in first-team training at London Colney, presenting an opportunity for a few of the u23s to step up.

Among those spotted in training photos and videos on Wednesday were Folarin Balogun, Catalin Cirjan, Tim Akinola, and Hubert Graczyk.

The group has only grown on Thursday, with George Lewis, Trae Coyle, Jonathan Dinzeyi, Tolaji Bola, Zane Monlouis, Joel Lopez, Alex Kirk, and Ryan Alebiosu involved.

From Wednesday’s group, Balogun and Akinola were both in the starting lineup against Blackburn Rovers last weekend, with Balogun starring with an excellent goal to earn a draw. Graczyk was on the bench for the same fixture.

Cirjan dropped down to the u18s for the FA Youth Cup the previous day, but that’s no indictment on his recent progress. The Youth Cup is simply considered important enough that it’s worth dropping your best u18 players down to play in it.

Balogun remains the centre of speculation around his contract situation, currently still refusing to sign an extension. Mikel Arteta always sounds positive that a deal will be done in the end, but Balogun’s Instagram activity suggests he’s unhappy.

The chance to join up with the first-team in training should be a positive, but honestly, I wouldn’t read too much into it.

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