19-year-old centre-back Daniel Ballard has signed a contract extension with Arsenal, less than a year after agreeing his first professional deal with the club.
The news confirms the centre-back is set to extend his 11-year stay with Arsenal, after a strong individual season with the academy.
Ballard has been a regular in the u23s this year, making 21 appearances in the PL2 and the EFL Trophy. He even pulled on the captain’s armband in a 5-0 win over Derby u23s in April.
The highlight of Ballard’s season has certainly been his knack for goalline clearances, bailing his goalkeepers out on a number of occasions.
Arsenal write that Ballard has helped the team to seven clean sheets in 18 PL2 appearances, but they’re actually underselling the defender, as the total should be eight.
The Northern Ireland u21 international has also helped his country to three clean sheets in four games this season at u21 level, as well as receiving a senior call-up.
Personally, I feel Ballard is the closest youth defender to being first-team ready. He was a little unlucky to see the likes of Zech Medley, Julio Pleguezuelo or even Konstantinos Mavropanos getting chances ahead of him this season, as he’s performed as well as any of them for the u23s.
That situation should change in 2019/20, particularly since the club have got enough faith in Ballard to give him a new contract.
He should either start getting opportunities in the cup competitions for Arsenal or moving on loan somewhere he’ll play regularly.