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Keep, loan or sell - What do Arsenal do next with Ligue 1 sensation Balogun?

7:00 AM EST 2/8/23
Folarin Balogun Reims Arsenal 2022-23
The young Gunners striker has taken France by storm this season to sit top of the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts - but what does his future hold?

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...

  • Mikel Arteta Folarin Balogun Arsenal 2021/22


    After enjoying such a breakthrough year in France, the worst thing that could happen for Balogun next season would be to return to north London and spend the majority of the campaign sitting on the bench.

    But with Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah in front of him, that is probably what would happen should he stick around and be part of Arteta’s squad.

    There would be opportunities for him, but you would expect they would be few and far between, especially as Arsenal look well set to secure Champions League football next season.

    So this does not feel like the best option when it comes to managing Balogun’s ongoing development. He’s had his first proper taste in senior football of playing week in, week out, and he will not want to go back to just getting the odd minute here and there off the substitutes' bench.

    That scenario will not really suit anyone. It certainly won’t benefit Balogun and it won’t really benefit Arsenal either. It might give them another body in the squad, but Balogun’s value would plummet should he spend the season without having any regular playing time. 

  • Folarin Balogun


    This would certainly be an appealing option.

    Balogun has had two decent loan spells so far. His stint at Middlesbrough during the second half of last season may not have been spectacular, but it taught him a lot about what to expect from senior football. He’s clearly taken a lot from that experience into his time with Reims and has taken his game to another level.

    It feels like the next step for Balogun in his development could potentially be to spend a season on loan with a Premier League club. That would be a major step up from Ligue 1 and would allow Arsenal to have a prolonged look at how the young striker deals with the demands of the English top flight.

    The big issue with this option, however, is that Balogun would really need to agree to a contract extension at Arsenal before they send him out on loan again.

    With his current deal due to expire in the summer of 2025, it makes little sense to send him out on loan next season if he has not agreed to extend his stay with the Gunners first.

  • Joe Willock Newcastle 2022-23


    This would be a difficult decision, given Balogun’s undoubted potential and the fact that he has come through the academy. But Arsenal need to get better at selling players when their stock is at their highest.

    The north London club have struggled for years to bring in good money from their unwanted or under-used squad members, with a couple of notable exceptions.

    One of those exceptions was Joe Willock, who the Gunners sold to Newcastle for £25 million following his exceptional loan spell at St James’ Park during the second half of the 2020-21 season.

    Arteta was a fan of Willock, but he and the club decided that £25m ($33m) was an offer they couldn’t really turn down for a player who was far from guaranteed to become a regular at Arsenal.

    It’s a similar scenario when it comes to Balogun. There is clearly lots of potential there, but should a big-money offer arrive on the back of his impressive exploits with Reims, it would be very tempting for the Gunners to cash in.

    They know they have to start bringing in revenue from transfer fees and there are few players in the squad as sellable as Balogun right now.

  • Folarin Balogun Reims Arsenal 2022-23

    The verdict

    There’s no doubt Arsenal have a dilemma on their hands when it comes to Balogun.

    Of the options available to them, the worst one they could take would be to keep him around for next season and not play him. That will do him no good whatsoever and would only see his market value plummet.

    It feels like the best possible scenario would be for the striker to agree to a new long-term contract and then head out on loan again, but this time to a Premier League club. He’s had experience in the Championship and also a season in one of Europe’s top leagues, but a year in the Premier League will be the acid test.

    It will show Arsenal a lot in terms of his ability to perform at the very top level and would give Balogun the opportunity to develop in the world’s toughest league.

    But for that to happen he would need to extend his contract first before going out.

    Should he decide not to do that, then the best option for Arsenal this summer would be to cash in when he still has two years of his deal remaining and take advantage of the sensational season he has been enjoying in France.