Folarin Balogun – Will He Stay Or Will he Go?
Folarin Balogun has been nominated for January’s Premier League 2 Player of the Month award. Balogun featured twice for the U23’s in January, scoring a hattrick in a 5-0 triumph over Brighton, before captaining the side to a 1-1 draw against North London rivals, Tottenham.
The highly rated teenager joins Bernd Leno (Player of the Month), Bukayo Saka (Player of the Month & Goal of the Month), Kieran Tierney (Goal of the Month) and Mikel Arteta (Manager of the Month) as Arsenal’s January award nominees.
With the youngster’s contract set to run out at the end of the season, this nomination is likely to raise his profile even higher, attracting more suitors for his highly-sought after signature. The young striker is considered one of the hottest young prospects in the game, ranking 41st in FourFourTwo’s recent list of the 50 most exciting teenagers in world football. Three other young Gun’s made the list – Saliba ranking 31st, Martinelli finishing 11th and Saka coming in at 8th.
With first team football limited this season, Balogun has become increasingly frustrated at his lack of senior game time. Balogun has made just 5 appearances for the senior side this year, all of which were brief cameos, following a late substitution. In the Europa League, the teen boasts 2 goals and 1 assist in 4 appearances – an impressive return. Flo was also a late substitute in the 4-1 Carabao Cup loss to Manchester City, but was unable to make any impact against the current table-toppers.
Having found first-team action hard to come by, Balogun’s contract extension talks with the Gunners have stalled in recent months. During the January transfer window, Arteta seemingly blamed Balogun’s agent for the halt in negotiations – “The club wants to make a deal, the manager wants to make a deal, the player wants to stay and I’m not sure about the agent.” Interestingly, Balogun’s agent also represents fellow Hale End graduates Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka – so surely the relationship between agent and club is a strong one?
Former Arsenal player Steve Morrow, who also spent a decade working on youth recruitment at the club, has been singing the youngster’s praises – “He’s got great physical qualities, can lead the line very well, holds the ball up very well, brings other players into play and is probably as good a finisher as Eddie.” These attributes were something witnessed by Arsenal fans in his brief Europa League appearances, but Arteta has yet to hand the talented teen any minutes in the Premier League. With Arsenal scoring just 27 goals in 23 league games this season, is it time to hand Balogun a chance and encourage him to extend his time at the club?
With less than 6 months left on his Arsenal contract, the youngster is now free to sign a pre-contract agreement with an overseas club. RB Leipzig were heavily touted to have snapped up the 19 year-old in the January window, but this did not materialize, yet anyway. A reported 15 CLUBS, home and abroad, are vying for the striker’s signature – certainly a man in demand.
Still finding himself behind Lacazette, Aubameyang and Nketiah in the pecking order, Balogun looks increasingly likely to see out the last few months of his contract and sign for another club. This potential, but increasingly realistic scenario is something that has frustrated many Arsenal fans on social media. Letting a highly rated, academy prospect sign for another club is deemed criminal by supporters. With Serge Gnabry becoming one of the best wingers in the world at Bayern Munich, it is easy to see why Arsenal fans are sceptical of letting young players leave a little prematurely.
Having been at the club since the age of 8, and being so highly rated by teammates and coaches, it would be a real shame to see Balogun leave the club this summer. With only the Europa League and Premier League left, the youngster’s minutes are likely to remain limited, perhaps non-existent. It looks like we will see another Hale End graduate leave the Emirates this summer. Or can Arteta convince the promising talent to stay?
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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