When Folarin Balogun opted to leave Arsenal and join Reims on loan last summer, he was sent on his way with an instruction from Mikel Arteta.
The Gunners boss, however, didn’t overload the young striker with anything tactical or set him any targets to aim for during his season on loan in France. It was all far more simple than that.
“Mikel just wanted me to develop as a man,” Balogun said. “I’m starting to learn what he meant by that. I think by the time I go back I’ll be in a better place to compete than I was before I left.”
Given what Balogun is achieving in France this season, there is no doubt he will return to Arsenal in the summer far better placed to push for a spot in Arteta’s first-team squad.
The 21-year-old has 14 goals from 18 starts for Reims and currently tops the scoring charts in Ligue 1. He’s one goal ahead of Kylian Mbappe and two clear of his former Arsenal team-mate Alexandre Lacazette, who is now back at Lyon. Lionel Messi, meanwhile, is four goals behind the England Under-21 international.
Balogun has taken France by storm, with his heroics over the past fortnight catapulting him into the headlines on both sides of the channel.
First, he scored an injury-time equaliser at Paris Saint-Germain to stun Parc des Princes and earn Reims a deserved 1-1 draw. He then helped himself to a hat-trick a few days later as Lorient were swept aside in style.
Balogun’s impressive form this season means Arsenal will have a big decision to make when it comes to his future in the summer. Do they keep him around or is this the perfect time to cash in, given his stock might never be as high again?
GOAL takes a look at all the options...
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