How Arsenal youngster Folarin Balogun could change Mikel Arteta's plans – and save them £80m

Arsenal star and Reims' English forward Folarin Balogun celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the French L1 football match between Stade de Reims and AJ Auxerre at Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, northern France on October 23, 2022.
(Image credit: FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP via Getty Images)

When Arsenal sent Folarin Balogun on loan to Stade Reims, few eyebrows were raised. The forward had only one start under his belts for the Gunners – and only that came due to a striking crisis that left Mikel Arteta without his first three options.

His loan spell couldn't be going any better. He's scored 14 goals in his first 20 Ligue 1 appearances under English boss Will Still – that's more than Kylian Mbappe and over half of Reims' goals altogether. He's netted a last-minute winner against PSG, a hat-trick against Lorient and with three nations vying for his citizenship, he might have big decisions to make at both club and international level. 

Balogun eased worries over his future in 2021 with a long-term contract at Arsenal, too. With such incredible development in France, he could well be in the Gunners' plans sooner than he imagined. 

Folarin Balogun could solve a big problem at Arsenal for Mikel Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta during a training session at London Colney on September 07, 2022 in St Albans, England.

Mikel Arteta has been trying to sign a marquee winger for a few transfer windows, now (Image credit: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal reached a dead end over Mykhalo Mudryk, with the Ukrainian going to Chelsea instead. It could have changed Balogun's trajectory as a player. 

The Gunners were chasing a marquee winger for a while. Pedro Neto was on the list but too expensive, while Rafael Leao, Moussa Diaby and Yeremy Pino were all touted before Mudryk. The search ended with a more experienced acquisition in Leandro Trossard – who can play on either wing, at wing-back or in midfield. 

But clearly, Arteta was willing to part with £60-80 million for the right player. The Gunners matched Chelsea's £88m bid for Mudryk, after all. 

Arsenal now have six options in their three-man attack: Trossard joins Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson. Nelson hasn't started a game all season and is out of contract at the end of the season, Marquinhos has left on loan and Emile Smith Rowe has more of a future in midfield

Trossard, as discussed, is versatile enough to play on either side. Jesus has only played as a No.9 for Arsenal but featured on both flanks for Manchester City, while Martinelli has played in all three forward positions, too. Saka has played right and left, while Nketiah has played on the left. 

That just leaves free-scoring Balogun. That gives them two players per position, as you can see below. 

It's more than possible that Jesus's future at Arsenal is as a winger either side of the No.9, rather than up front himself – especially if Nketiah proves undroppable when the Brazilian returns. But really, Balogun might not end up as a centre-forward. Gabriel Martinelli has a similar frame and strength to his game and he's re-invented himself under Arteta as a touchline winger, who can break into the box to score goals, dovetailing with Jesus, who drifts out of the penalty box a lot.

Who's to say Balogun doesn't unlock new aspects of his game for the rest of his loan? The last time Arsenal had an interest in a player this prolific in France, they paid £72m for him (opens in new tab). And if Balogun's trajectory is anything like Nketiah's, he could become one of the deadliest forwards in England sooner rather than later. 

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Mark White
Staff Writer

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.