Folarin Balogun has been a sensation on loan at Reims and currently holds the number one spot in the goalscoring charts of Ligue 1 with a total of 14 goals in 20 appearances. He racked up a hattrick against Lorient in his last game, helping his side turn over a 0-2 deficit to grab all three points in a 4-2 home victory.
Kylian Mbappe is his closest competitor with one goal less but Balogun will have a free run of 3 or so weeks to boost those stats as Mbappe is set for a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
54% – Folarin @Balogun has scored 54% of Reims’ Ligue 1 goals this season (14/26), the highest share of any player for a side in Europe’s big five leagues. Figurehead. pic.twitter.com/egjKLNEfNP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 2, 2023
TALK OF THE TOWN
Born in the United States to Nigerian parents and raised in England, Balogun is eligible to represent all three nations at international level and a fight for his services has already started. But Folarin Balogun’s form has not only caused an interest on the international stage. Both Milan and Inter are reportedly interested and Arsenal will have a decision to make soon.
FOLARIN BALOGUN 🏴🇺🇲🇳🇬(2001) HAT-TRICK!!!! (All goals)#USMNTpic.twitter.com/53lToq6z3Q
— Football Report (@FootballReprt) February 2, 2023
So… KEEP, LOAN, SELL?
Balogun has a contract until 2025, signed in 2021 – after a long and drawn-out process, Edu and Arteta managed to get him to agree to a new 4-year contract back then but they now have a dilemma on their hands. Let’s go over the three options a bit more in-depth.
21-year-old Hale End graduate and a youngster who grew up around this team. He’s trained with most of these players already and fitting him into the squad dynamics again wouldn’t be a problem.
But where? Gabriel Jesus and Nketiah look like the nailed-on striker pairing, with the latter proving he can be a more than ready substitute in Jesus’ absence. Folarin Balogun would either have to buckle down and fight for opportunities with those two or push someone out of the team/position.
Nketiah is strictly a striker and Jesus is the technical leader of this team from the front. Although Jesus is entirely capable of playing as a left winger and often interchanges with Martinelli, I don’t feel like that is something Arteta will go for just yet. But we’ve seen crazier things happen. In August, Gabriel previously said: “I’m very blessed as I can play across all front three but I am a No.9. I am there to finish our chances. Not only that but to help the team as a whole.”
If he was to force a change in the eleven ala Saliba, Arsenal would get a deadly option blessed with high technical level and one which would role-for-role, possibly imitate Jesus well. Nketiah is more of an outlet and someone who looks more mature with his actions (2 years older) but he doesn’t quite have the tehnical base Balogun has. In my eyes, Nketiah is now the better decision maker overall but Folarin Balogun might just have that more of an X factor in him. More control on the ball, sharper shooter etc.
Don’t get me wrong, Nketiah is a fabulous player who’s doing extremely well and someone whose making use of everything he’s got at his disposal. He’s the more hardworking option with better tactical discipline too.
Arsenal letting him go on another loan might just be too big of a risk considering he’ll come back into the last year of his contract in 2024. It would make sense if Arsenal are ready to lay off Nketiah in that same summer and bring Balogun back as the clear number two behind Jesus. Groundwork for a new contract should be already set by then though as he will have suitors ready to offer him a deal when his contract runs out. Not to mention that him going into the last year of his Arsenal deal effectively drops his price.
A loan would involve a lot of moving pieces and it might just be too big of an ask.
Selling Folarin Balogun in the summer while he’s at the peak of his price is a genuine possibility.
He’ll come in the summer off the back of a very strong Ligue 1 campaign, he’s a homegrown player and he has plenty of untapped potentials. All this makes him an attractive option for Premier League clubs but also abroad.
We’ve seen it happen before with Willock and Iwobi. We have to take into account that while the “youth project” is a huge part of Arsenal’s success, the academy is also a place to generate revenue. We cannot expect every single youngster to have a place in this team.
IN MY OPINION
It’s a very tough decision to make for Arteta and Edu but things change in an instant. Keeping him for the pre-season and going from there is a normal step to take. An offer of a starting centre forward at a Premier League club for Nketiah he can’t refuse might come tomorrow for all we know. It’s important we evaluate all possibilities correctly and go into the next season with clear roles for players, just like we’ve been doing so far.
Overall its a good problem to have and I’d rather have it than not.