Folarin Balogun: How Arsenal’s on-loan striker is topping the Ligue 1 charts in France at Stade de Reims | Football news

In the presence of Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, Folarin Balogun scored against Parc des Princes.

The Arsenal loaned striker edged past European Championship-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, shot towards goal and ran towards the corner.

Confidently placing an arm on the flag, Balogun mimicked one of Thierry Henry’s old ways of celebrating after shaking hands with the Arsenal legend just hours earlier. “Only when I show my respect,” the 21-year-old tweeted later that evening. But Henry should respect in the opposite direction.

Balogun’s goal last Sunday helped Stade de Reims win a point against defending champions Paris Saint-Germain to extend their unbeaten run to 12 games under rookie coach Will Still.

And there was no unlucky number 13 for Reims, nor Balogun, on Wednesday night when the England U21 forward scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Lorient to add to his memorable week.

Messi and Mbappe searched last weekend, now they are searching. More than half the season has passed, Balogun leads the scoring charts in Ligue 1 with 14 goals in 20 appearances.

It’s easy to define this as a breakout season, but it’s not the first time Balogun has been noticed. The unnamed striker was included in Arsenal’s starting line-up in the opening day loss at Brentford due to the coronavirus outbreak that left Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out.

Balogun struggled to start in Arsenal's opening day loss to Brentford last season
Balogun struggled to start Arsenal’s opening match against Brentford last season

Some would consider that experience, when he left the field after 59 minutes with barely any impact, as unsettling for a player so immature – but now Balogun has plenty of goals. in the league than Lacazette and Aubameyang this season combined.

In fact, only Erling Haaland and Harry Kane have scored more goals in all competitions in Europe’s five major leagues this season than the Arsenal loanee.

It’s a huge step up from the striker who scored just three goals in 18 Championship games for Middlesbrough last season. But it was the quiet, difficult period that Mikel Arteta was looking for.


Arsenal’s coveted young players have all suffered setbacks over the past few years. Emile Smith Rowe went on loan at RB Leipzig through injury and returned without playing. Eddie Nketiah was benched at Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa and nearly left the club last season when doing the same under Arteta.

William Saliba was dropped from the Gunners’ first team and trained with the Under-23s, Gabriel Martinelli picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2020 as soon as he joined the first team. Bukayo Saka’s great rise could not have even happened without missing a penalty at Euro 2020. All of Arsenal’s flourishing young players at the moment were dealt an early blow. Arteta wanted the same from Balogun.

“You can see how he’s developing,” Arteta said last March when Balogun attended the Championship. “This will give us more detail on the next best move for him to continue to grow, because he has grown and we want him to be a part of our future. .

“He needs a path, he needs that contact. He needs to go through the good and the tough moments, and he needs to be able to adapt and find himself in the dressing room, and at the same time promote. the importance it takes to play at this level. I think he’s doing all of that really well.”

Folarin Balogun
Balogun is the latest in a long time for promising young Arsenal players to mature

The next step is to go to France and Ligue 1 with Reims. A difficult environment for a young player who has grown up in north London for most of his life. New language, new teammates, new culture.

His struggles are summed up by boss Reims in an Amazon Prime clip Still Training, joking with Balogun. “Your French is really shocking, absolutely terrible,” said the manager.

All of this in a team that fell to the bottom of the table, who fired Oscar Garcia and asked Balogun – helped by inexperienced manager Still – to pull them out of trouble.

“I spent my entire career in London so when I came here I knew it would be different,” Balogun said. prime minister video earlier in the season.

“I don’t know the language and I’m still trying to learn it – but for me it’s important to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. This is why I’m here and hopefully this decision will work. good for me and pay off.”

Balogun (right) celebrates a late goal against PSG
Balogun (right) celebrates a late goal against PSG

And Arsenal legend Henry, who coached Balogun in the Arsenal youth team, agrees with the young striker.

“In general, Londoners struggle to leave London,” Henry said in September.

“I am really happy for him because in general English players do not go abroad to play. Usually, players are loaned to another Premier League or Championship team.

“He is a very English player who likes to run along the lines but he lacks one thing, which is his finishing ability.”

Now, the only question mark about Balogun is his place in Arsenal’s striker hierarchy upon his return to north London in the summer.

With the current scoring pattern, he could be the striker Arsenal are looking for in the January transfer window.


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