Where will Folarin Balogun fit in at Arsenal next season?

Where will Folarin Balogun fit in at Arsenal next season?
Reims’ midfielder Folarin Balogun celebrates after scoring a penalty during the French L1 football match between Stade de Reims and FC Nantes at the Auguste-Delaune stadium in Reims, northern France on November 6, 2022. (Photo by FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP via Getty Images)

Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun scored a typical finish against AS Monaco on Sunday, racing in behind the defence to latch onto a through ball before finishing under the goalkeeper.

It was one of a few big chances the striker had to score, as well as the four that he created for his teammates. But the match finished 1-0, with that one goal proving enough to make the difference.

Balogun has now scored 16 goals in Ligue 1, plus one more in the Coupe de France. Yet there’s still some debate about his Arsenal future.

The Gunners have made two good signings up front in the last couple of windows, with Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard bringing goals, assists, and an intuitive understanding of how to get the best out of their new teammates.

Then there’s Eddie Nketiah, who has nine goals of his own despite largely acting as a rotation option earlier in the campaign and carrying an injury in recent weeks.

The way Trossard and Jesus have interchanged with Gabriel Martinelli also seemingly makes the Brazilian a central option for Mikel Arteta’s side.

But when you have a 21-year-old scoring 17 goals by mid-March in one of Europe’s top-five leagues, you surely need to find a way to work him into the rotation.

Reims’ English forward Folarin Balogun celebrates with teammates after scoring during the French L1 football match between Stade de Reims and FC Lorient at Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, northern France on February 1, 2023. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images)

There are some factors working against Balogun. The main issue is that he’s a very different forward to Jesus or Trossard, primarily thriving on through balls and space to exploit.

That’s not usually the way Arsenal approach games at the moment, given most of their opponents turn up to sit deep.

Another problem is the fact that Balogun isn’t currently around the team, settling with the starters on their title charge. He’ll return in the summer needing to adapt quickly if he’s going to displace the alternatives.

But one factor that may work in Balogun’s favour is that he’s comfortable playing out on the left. He did so a lot for the Arsenal youth teams, and he has the skillset for it, with the pace to race around the outside and the finishing prowess to cut in.

Whether it’s Jesus, Trossard, Martinelli, or Nketiah, Arteta has almost always expected his strikers to drift out to the left at times during a match. Balogun should be more than capable of that.

It’s also not necessarily a bad thing that Balogun has a different profile from some of the other options. He would be better than any of them at killing games on the counter-attack late on, for example.

At 21, Balogun also has room to continue to develop and play a long-term role at Arsenal.

Ultimately, it looks like Arsenal need to offload at least one of their centre-forward options this summer. But there’s no reason why it necessarily has to be Balogun, and with his form this season you could argue it shouldn’t be.


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