Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun looks set to leave Arsenal for free this summer. The 19-year-old striker is able to sign a pre-contract agreement with another club, with Liverpool and several Bundesliga sides interested in his signature.
Despite having played only 74 minutes for the Arsenal first team, there is frustration amongst the club’s supporters that a young talent could leave for free. Is there any chance he could stay?
It seems increasingly unlikely. Arsenal technical director Edu and manager Mikel Arteta inherited this problem but have done little to resolve the issue. Arsenal rejected a £5 million offer from Brentford in January 2020 with Sheffield United also having a bid rejected that summer.
Balogun has stated that he is willing to stay with Arsenal but only if he plays. The striker is behind Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah in the pecking order and has only managed a couple of short cameos in this season’s Europa League. This included a first senior goal against Norwegian side Molde, a mere 37 seconds after coming on from the bench. He has scored two goals from four appearances in the competition so far this term.
Mikel Arteta has claimed that Arsenal are doing all they can to keep him:
The club wants to make a deal, the manager wants to make a deal, the player wants to stay and I’m not sure about the agent.
While agents look after their own financial interests, they must also represent the views of their clients. Balogun wants opportunities at Arsenal and is finding them hard to come by in a team that has frequently struggled in front of goal. Fifteen clubs are rumoured to be interested in signing the New York born striker.
Balogun has been prolific at youth level for Arsenal, starting 19 times in Arsenal’s Under 18s title winning season (2018-19) and scoring an incredible 25 goals. However, success in youth football doesn’t always translate to the first team.
Arturo Lupoli joined the Arsenal academy in 2003 after a sensational season with Parma Under 17s, where he scored 45 goals in just 22 games. Lupoli played in cup competitions for Arsenal but couldn’t reproduce his form from the younger age categories. He is currently 33 and has become a journeyman in the Italian lower leagues (currently with Virtus Verona – Serie C).
In recent years, Serge Gnabry (Bayern), Ismaël Bennacer (Milan) and Donyell Malen (PSV) have all left Arsenal’s Hale End academy and had very successful careers elsewhere. For every Gnabry there is a Lupoli.
However, there is a need to play or profit from young talent and with Balogun it seems Arsenal are doing neither. Arsenal fans remain largely undecided about Eddie Nketiah, the club’s current backup striker. He is the new record goalscorer for England U21s (16 goals in 14 appearances), but has been unable to produce anything like these statistics in the Premier League. As of January 2021, West Ham hold an interest in the striker but Arsenal are unwilling to sell, this seems to block Balogun’s path to the first team.
If Arteta has deemed that Balogun is not ready, he should have been sold sooner. It appears Arsenal have still not learnt from the past, with high profile players such as Robin van Persie, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey all leaving for far less than their market values due to expiring contracts.
Currently, Arsenal are looking to get Mesut Özil, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi off their wage bill. They were bought for a total of 95 million pounds but are all set to leave for nothing (their contracts all expire in June 2021).
Arsenal have had a stuttering start to the league this season but appear to be gathering momentum thanks to youth products such as Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock and Emile Smith Rowe. Unfortunately, it appears that Folarin Balogun won’t get a chance to join them.
Arsenal’s last appearance in the Champions League was back in 2016-17 season and with the current COVID-19 pandemic, finances are tight at the club. So, why haven’t Arsenal learnt from past mistakes?