July 09, (THEWILL) – Academy goalkeeper for Arsenal, Arthur Okonkwo, has been permanently promoted to the Gunners’ senior squad and offered a long-term professional contract after a consistent performance that saw him rise through the ranks and transition from the Under-18 to the Under-23 at just 17 years of age.
Currently 19 years old, Okonkwo continued his impressive turnout in the Premier League 2 in the 2020/2021 campaign. He took the advantage of training with the first team to earn himself a substitute spot on the bench in the Europa League match between Arsenal and Greek side Olympiacos.
Impressed by what he was seeing of the young goalkeeper, Mikel Arteta named Okonkwo in the the squad for both semi-final legs against Villarreal, which unfortunately for Arsenal was as far as they went in the second tier of Europe’s club competition although Okonkwo did not get a chance to feature.
Yet, Okonkwo’s star is bright with this senior contract after years of representing England at Under-18 level. The new deal comes in good time as the keeper had been out of contract since 30 June. He has now earned a first team place and will make the shirt number 33 he was given his own.
Highlighting the thinking that went into the club’s decision to retain Okonkwo’s services, Arteta told the Gunners’ website: “We welcome Arthur to the first-team squad. 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 Arthur in recent years to get to this stage, they are doing great work with the players’ development here and should be really proud.
“Arthur was working and travelling a lot with the first team last season and we have all seen his quality at first hand. He is a strong young goalkeeper with great potential and we’re so pleased he has signed a new deal. He has absolutely earned his place in the first-team squad.
“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.”
As the hierarchy goes, Okonkwo will likely serve as third-choice to man the Arsenal goal behind German Bernd Leno, if he remains in north London, and Runar Alex Runarsson next season. Okonkwo’s impressive standing can pave the way for him up the pecking order if he continues to keep it up.