Following the injury and suspension of forwards Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah, a spot in the Arsenal front line has appeared, and who better to fill it than 19-year-old Folarin Balogun.
The teenage striker has guaranteed goals for Arsenal’s youth sides, however according to the Athletic, the England youth international has decided to leave the Emirates after failing to agree a new contract.
This was tough news to take for Arsenal fans, with the striker having just a year left on his contract, whilst also being arguably the most highly rated young player at Arsenal who is yet to play a first team game for the Gunners.
Balogun’s goal numbers at youth level are frightening, with the teenager scoring 25 goals in just 19 games for the U18s last season. In comparison to Mason Greenwood, another young English forward who is taking the Premier League by storm, the Arsenal forward scored ten more goals than him that season, playing a further six games.
This season, Balogun made the full step up to the U23s and has shone once again, scoring 10 in 16 games, making him the league’s joint-top goalscorer. Unfortunately, despite his good performances, the striker hasn’t made an appearance for the first team due to the competition in front of him, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Lacazette, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah all in front of him in the pecking order.
However, could the striker now finally get his chance to shine? With Martinelli injured for the rest of the season and Eddie Nketiah suspended for the next three games, Arsenal will have no striker on the bench.
Whilst it would seem common sense to have Balogun on the bench, the youngster has not been pictured training with the first team since the Premier League restart and this could be down to contract negotiations. One could argue the article by ‘The Athletic’ could just be the youngster’s agent trying to force Arsenal’s hand, whilst the striker not training could be Arsenal fighting against that.
It will be very interesting given the circumstances to see if Balogun trains with the first team ahead of the North London Derby on Sunday. Do Arsenal stand strong and keep him out of training until he has agreed a contract? Or do they bring him in so there is a recognised striker on the Arsenal bench?
Before the break, the youngster was training regularly with the Arsenal first team, drawing praise from his fellow teammate Aubameyang who tweeted on his Twitter account @Aubameyang7: “This young boy is fire.” However, since the restart, he is yet to feature in first team training, leading many to believe that he is either on his way out, or Arsenal are playing negotiation games.
In my opinion, we cannot afford to let Balogun go. Arsenal have suffered in recent years letting promising young players go for cheap such as Serge Gnabry, Donyell Malen and Ismael Bennacer to name a few, and they must not make the same mistake again.
From what I’ve watched of Balogun and Nketiah for Arsenal’s youth teams, I personally believe the former has the narrowly higher potential. In my opinion, Arsenal’s attack will be sorted for the next decade if they can sign the striker to a new deal, adding to the important contract extensions of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.