Balogun and Azeez need to be promoted to the first team ASAP
Arsenal currently have two Hale End prospects that might just help Arsenal fill much needed positions for the foreseeable future. Folarin Balogun and Miguel Azeez have been tearing it up recently for Arsenal’s youth teams. Now is the time to promote them.
Starting with Balogun, Arsenal have a real gem on their hands. Watching him play is like watching a combination of Lacazette and Aubameyang (albeit against weaker opposition of course). He is brilliant at receiving the ball to feet and bring others into the play. And he also has an abundance of pace and energy which allows him to burst in behind and drift into the wider channels and cause problems. He clearly has a real striker’s instinct. His finishing is superb and his footballing intelligence seems to be improving a lot too. Naturally, he is still a very raw talent but the early signs are extremely promising. The only problem with the Balogun situation is that he wants to play for the first team. He received very little opportunity in the Europa League group stage and wants assurances that his chances will be far more frequent if he is to commit his long term future to Arsenal. The main player in the way of this right now is Nketiah who Arteta prefers over Balogun as an understudy to Lacazette. For me, I don’t want to see Arsenal give up on Balogun, nor do I want to see them give up on Nketiah. They both have to receive a chance. Over the summer, I would consider sending Nketiah out on loan. Smith Rowe and Nelson both really benefited from this, but since Leeds could not offer him enough game time and experience, Nketiah’s short stay and Elland Road was fairly wasteful. I think Nketiah will by now have shown enough to some Premier League clubs that taking him on loan for a season may be very helpful. For example, when Norwich get promoted again I am not convinced they will want to rely on Pukki to keep them up. Think of how clubs like Sheffield United or Fulham might have profited from having Nketiah with them this season. Nketiah is at that stage in his career where he needs a run of games at a Premier League side to see what the future will hold for him. Meanwhile, Balogun needs the chance to learn under Lacazette and Aubameyang and fill in for them in the Cup games for a year or two. After which point we will be far better informed to see which of the two should be the long term Arsenal striker.
With Miguel Azeez I think we have a future superstar. I am actually quite surprised that we have not taken that next step with Azeez already. He has been performing at a high level for 2 or 3 years now at the youth ranks. He is a real box to box midfield bruiser. To be honest, he has similar traits to Thomas Partey in terms of his physicality but also how he carries the ball. He would really benefit from spending the second half of this season with the first team, learning from Partey over the next couple of years until he is eventually ready to take over that role. Ultimately, it is quite common to find good wingers and promising strikers at youth level. It’s what most kids grow up wanting to be. What I don’t see much of is a guy who is young, strong, energetic and wants to be a real box-to-box bruiser. That kind of player is a real rarity. I haven’t seen someone in that kind of mould and to be so ready, physically, for the next step since Renato Sanches burst onto the scene.