Folarin Balogun- An in depth look
By James Whiffing
After several frustrating months of waiting for a first team call up, Folarin Balogun finally got the nod from Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, with the Spaniard naming the 19-year-old in his 23-man Europa League squad. Just 37 seconds into his second appearance off the bench for the first team, the Englishman fired home to open his senior account for the Gunners. The fact that Balogun’s first goal came so quickly should not be a surprise, especially considering his exceptional record at youth level.
After a string of promising performances for his Sunday League team (Aldersbrook), the American-born striker had a trial with Tottenham before eventually joining the Gunners at the age of 10. Balogun really kicked off his Arsenal youth career with the under-18s, where he had a phenomenal record, playing 33 times, scoring 34 and assisting 7 in the league. Additionally, the Englishman averaged a goal contribution every 66 minutes; a sensational stat which surely played a part in catapulting the youngster into the Gunner’s under-21s side.
After a very successful spell with Arsenal’s under-18s team, Balogun found himself regularly featuring for the under-21s. The 19-year-old’s record for the second side saw him net 15 times and assist 6 times in 36 appearances in the Premier League 2, whilst averaging a goal contribution every 107 minutes.
Balogun seems to be the full package when it comes to his playstyle. Firstly, he has a terrifying combination of pace and power when dribbling with the ball, which would strike fear into the hearts of any defender. On top of this, Balogun is also a lethal finisher; he shows no mercy to opposition goalkeepers and almost always finds the corner with his powerful strikes in and around the box.
Another of Balogun’s many strengths is his two-footedness; he is more than capable with either foot, which is something the Gunner’s lack in their first team, therefore making the striker more unpredictable and difficult to defend against. Balogun also offers a unique spark of energy which could help uplift what is often a flat, dull Arsenal attack; he is always looking to beat his man no matter where he is on the pitch. This, when paired with his two-footedness, makes him a defender’s nightmare, with his unpredictability unlocking numerous avenues for him to attack from. Finally, the New York-born forward is very positionally aware; he always seems to know where to position himself when in the final third. This is a trait which is shared with the likes of Aubameyang, who seems to get many of his goals via tap ins thanks to his incredible positional knowledge, awareness and movement; this could be something that the experienced Arsenal captain has taught Balogun.
The only real downside to Balogun’s game is his aerial ability. Although the 19-year-old has scored a handful of headers during his time in the Arsenal academy, it is not his strong point; he seems much more comfortable with the ball at his feet and running at the opposition's backline.
Balogun’s superb performances for the under 18s and 21s has attracted plenty of interest, with the Gunners reportedly turning down a £5 million bid from Brentford in January 2020. The Gunners will have to be hasty in their efforts to tie the Englishman down to a new contract, however, since only several months remain on his current deal. It is clear that the young striker is rated very highly amongst the Arsenal players and staff, with the likes of Aubameyang stating that “he’s very, very talented”, and Arteta saying that “he wants to stay, we want him to stay”; these are very promising words which should hopefully convince Balogun to extend his stay at Arsenal and put pen to paper on a long-term deal.