How do you solve a problem like Balogun?


Okay, so first off, it’s a good problem to have. Falorin Balogun has laid waste to Ligue 1, having become the youngest player to score at least 17 goals in his first Ligue 1 season since 1956. While we might remind ourselves that Alexandre Lacazette has scored the same number, reminding us that Ligue 1 is not nearly as rigorous as the Prem, Balogun is a mere 21 years old. His meteoric rise should remind us more of William Saliba than of Lacazette.

The only players to have outscored Balogun thus far have been Lille’s Jonathan David and some guy named Kylian Mbappé (both on 19 goals). Put in brute financial terms, Balogun’s performance has seen his value rise almost seven-fold from a modest £3.5m to £22m (don’t check my maths; I’m close but not precise). Balogun is a mere 21 and in his first full season of anything approaching top-flight football (with apologiesto Boro). He’s only just now starting to scratch the surface of his talent, and yet…

Where would he fit in should he return to Arsenal? He’d need some bedding in and is clearly still not on a level with Gabriel Jesus. How does he compare to Eddie Nketiah? There’s the rub. As alluded to above, scoring 17 goals in Ligue 1 isn’t on its face astounding. Perhaps it puts Balogun on a level with Nketiah, who’s scored four goals in 990 minutes (Balogun’s used 2130 minutes to get his 17 goals). Hard to say. If we’re going with Saliba’s loan as an example we’d be fools not to bring Balogun back and give him minutes.

For himself, Balogun has offered tea leaves of his own, Having missed out on an England call-up and settling for the U21s, Balogun had this to say:

In life, go where you’re appreciated.

As if that was not enough to set lips wagging, Balogun added this:

I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the future. A lot could happen in football, a lot could change. It just depends on the conversations we have between me and the club in the summer. We will see.

Taken together, it’s hard to know Balogun’s intent. What’s more, it’ hard to know what’s best for either him or the squad. For us, an invigorated and inspired Balogun would be a welcome addition to the squad, but he’d have to fight for time on the pitch. Would he accept that a promotion to the Prem would also mean a demotion from the squad? He’d be behind Jesus, after all, and he’d have to fight Nketiah for minutes. That’s a tough trade-off to consider: lead the line for Reims again or fight for Jesus’s scraps.

All in all, it’s the kind of selection dilemma that Arteta may just luxuriate in. Bringing Balogun back would allow Arteta to rotate to dizzying degrees—Jesus on the left with Balogun through the middle while Martinelli rests. Trossard on the left with Jesus in through the middle with Smith-Rowe on the right while Saka rests.

This? This is what depth might look like.

As one last parting word, I’d love to see some more banter and debate following these posts. To that end, I’m proud (ish) to announce Aprilphernalia, a modest promotion that enters the most-frequent commenters in a drawing to win a £25 gift card at Arsenal Direct. Have at you!

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5 thoughts on “How do you solve a problem like Balogun?

  1. Matthew Anthony Cameron Pipkin

    Balogun’s definitely talented but (although its probably unfair to say right now) I wonder if he’d fit at Arsenal? Would someone like Victor Roque be a better young challenger, would cashing in on Folarin after a stellar season be the right choice?

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      selling Balogun is definitely a positive option, but I don’t know much about Roque. He seems small, not that Balogun is much bigger. I’ll have to look into him to learn more!

  2. Mohlanka Molapo

    First and most important; Balogun is not, and does not present a “problem” that needs solving. Just like Saka, Martinelli, Zinchenko, he’s looking to develop his game with the sole purpose of cementing his name in the team; whether this means displacing someone else, it doesn’t really matter.
    He wants to be the best in his position.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Oh, sure – I don’t mean he’s a problem in the straightforward sense of it. If he continues to develop, he’ll pose a positive problem in that Arteta will have to make tricky decisions. Is Falogun ready to make the jump to the Prem? Would he be content with a sitting on the bench here, or would he prefer starting (and improving) at Reims for another season? It’s questions like these that I meant to get people thinking about…

  3. Kelechi

    For as good as he’s been for Reims, I don’t think he’s quite ready to rejoin us. Another season of starting would give him valuable time to get better. If he comes back, he’s definitely second choice behind Jesus and would only play in League Cup matches or the last 10-15 minutes of matches we’ve basically won already. That’s no good for his development and he’d be unhappy too.


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