Mikel Arteta has leapt to the defence of Arsenal’s young goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo after a poor display during his first-team debut for the club.
The Gunners confirmed last week that Okonkwo had signed a three-year contract extension to stay at the Emirates, promoting him to the senior squad in the process.
The young shot-stopper was also handed the number 33 shirt as he appears to be the club’s new third-choice keeper going into the new season – with Icelandic reserve goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson set to leave north London after a disappointing debut campaign.
Okonkwo was then handed his first start for the club as they travelled to Scottish side Hibernian for their pre-season opener on Tuesday night, a game that they eventually lost 2-1 thanks to a horrible error from the debutant.
The 19-year-old endured a shaky start to proceedings, flapping at a couple of crosses before he failed to control Cedric‘s backpass in the 20th minute, which allowed Martin Boyle in to score a tap-in for the home side.
However, Arteta has backed the youngster, claiming that pre-match nerves may have got the better of him on this occasion.
“It’s his debut so he was so excited.”, Arteta said after the game. “He has earned his place in the first team with everything he has done at the academy level and unfortunately, it started like that. But things will get better. He will have another chance on Saturday so hopefully, he can be better.”
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The Spaniard also confirmed that the youngster will be the club’s third-choice goalkeeper next season, with Arsenal still looking to sign someone to challenge German shot-stopper, Bernd Leno, this summer.
“Absolutely and he’s confident in the relationship with his teammates and everything”, Arteta said when asked if he will evolve over time. It’s time to support him. He is our third goalkeeper and we need to give him confidence.”