Ballard delighted to sign new deal at Arsenal
- Credit: Archant
Northern Ireland defender Daniel Ballard has signed a new contract at Arsenal, writes Joshua Bunting.
Ballard, 19, was part of this week's international training camp in Manchester ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifying matches with Estonia and Belarus.
He made 18 appearances in the Premier League 2 for Freddie Ljungberg's side last season, helping the Gunners keep seven clean sheets.
Ballard has also played four times for Ian Baraclough's Northern Ireland Under-21s and scored the winner against Iceland in October's Euro Under-21 qualifier in Reykjavik.
The defender was initially called up to the international scene in March for the home matches against Estonia and Belarus after captaining Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup final last season.
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He told arsenal.com: "It's been a very long season and I've worked really hard for this moment.
"All the emotions have come in one day and I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to the years to come at Arsenal.
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"I think I've grown a lot. I found it tough coming into the under-23s, but I've learnt so much under Freddie and towards the end of the season I think it started to show.
"Freddie has helped me a lot with my work on the ball, my technique, when to pass, what decisions to make.
"That's been the major thing that's improved, then my defnding and knowledge of the game continues to get better."
Ballard revealed two first-team players as those he looked up to and hopes to join them as soon as possible.
He added: "I was really impressed with Rob Hodling at the start of the year and the period when Laurent Koscielny played a few games with us.
"You can learn a lot from such an experienced player, so they're two players I really look up to.
"I need to continue to develop. I want to push towards the first team as soon as possible. It would be a dream to play for Arsenal, so that's a goal I can work towards over the next few years now."