Could keeping Folarin Balogun have made a difference to Arsenal this season?



By Tony Attwood

“Shock horror Arsenal make the wrong decision”

That’s the sort of generic headline that various media outlets love to use – Arsenal buy a player, Arsenal don’t buy a player, Arsenal sell a player, Arsenal don’t sell a player – the headline is always available and there is always a person not employed by a football club wanting to tell the audience that Arsenal are getting it wrong.

That was certainly the case as the Mirror ran “Arsenal ‘could regret Folarin Balogun exit’ as Mikel Arteta faces transfer decision”.  

That headline appeared in July last year and it focussed on the story that Balogun wanted to play regularly in the first team but didn’t see himself having a chance with Gabriel Jesus, Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard and Kai Havertz ahead of him.

So we had the usual sort of thing: “Mikel Arteta has been advised not to sell Folarin Balogun this summer – with Inter Milan interested in signing the Arsenal forward.”

The fact was that at the time Balogun had two years left on his contract, so that was the moment the decision had to be made.  From that point onward his value in the transfer market would decline.

The story then was that Inter Milan were offering around £34m for Balogun, and quotes from the player saying, “I definitely won’t go on loan again.”   And another warning in the Mirror was “Arteta would regret letting him leave the Emirates.”

But on 30 August last year Monaco signed the player for a fee that was around €30 million, which could rise to €40 million depending on with add-ons, and so far it looks like that was a good deal for Arsenal.   For as the Athletic put it, “The sun may always shine on the French Riviera, but things have become a little shady for Folarin Balogun of late.”

The fact is that Balogun scored three goals in his first five games for Monaco and everyone was talking about the transfer being the deal of the century for Monaco and Arsenal getting too little for the player.  But since then Balogun has only got one goal in the next 11 games, and so the journalists who always like to give the impression that they knew what would happen all along are now reporting that Balogun’s only goal came in a 5-2 defeat.

Adi Hütter the Monaco manager recently dropped Balogun saying that, “Here in Monaco, it is a little bit special. It is different for him. We have more possession of the ball and play more in the opponents’ half.”

That comment was taken seriously, and it was indeed an interesting comment as according to Footy Stats Monaco’s possession average is 55%.  Arsenal’s figure is 60.5% for league matches.  So yes it is different with Monaco, but for exactly the opposite reason from that given by the manager.   (No journalist seemed to pick up on that however).

And this is something we often find in football.   Figures are trotted out and then accepted, whereas in fact a lot of the time those speaking just make the figures and stories up, knowing that the journalists (as in the case of the Mirror) are far too lazy to check the data.  And where that doesn’t happen, half of the time the figures turn out to show the opposite from that proclaimed.

The league table in France now reads


French Ligue 1 2023/24
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Paris Saint-Germain 18 13 4 1 44 14 30 43
2 Nice 18 10 5 3 19 11 8 35
3 Brest 18 10 4 4 27 15 12 34
4 Monaco 18 10 3 5 34 25 9 33


That gives Monaco 1.89 goals per game and 1.83 points per game.   Arsenal as you will know are of course also fourth with 1.85 goals per game but 2.00 points per game.   

Thus the main difference between the two clubs is that Monaco play in a league in which the President of the league leaders (Nasser Al-Khelaifi) is being investigated over allegations of ‘kidnap and torture’ in Qatar.  The nearest equivalent of that came when Stan Kroenke agreed to $790 million to settle a lawsuit filed by St. Louis interests over their team’s relocation to Los Angeles.

Arsenal are the seventh-highest-scoring team this season in the Premier League having been the second-highest-scoring team last season, but from his form this season it looks as if Folarin Balogun would not have made too much difference.

4 Replies to “Could keeping Folarin Balogun have made a difference to Arsenal this season?”

  1. I happen to watch Folarin’s game every time I can, after watching at least half of his games for Reims last season.
    First thing to say – he plays very well. His moves, his holdup play, the way he thinks ahead too: he’s the embodiment of a young player who knows that no player will ever move as fast as the ball can; every time he touches the ball, his team’s move gathers momentum. As for his main quality which is the perfect timing of his darting runs behind the opposite team’s defense, well … I think everyone could/should agree we could have done with them this season.
    Now … he doesn’t score as much as he did last season, that’s a fact, but a fact which can be accounted for quite easily when you take a closer look at his season’s story.
    First, he hit the bars several times, not to mention a few goals disallowed after dubious (imo) VARdecisions … but let’s put that aside.
    For there are other reasons, and as is often the case when goal-scorers stop scoring for a while, they have to do with the what’s going on in their minds, not their bodies.
    To begin with, let’s not forget he had been rejected by his boyhood club.The kid had been a Gooner 13 years, his loan had been one of the most successful in the club’s history, but after coming home, he wasn’t even given the shadow of a chance to shine in the red-and-white. I’ll get back to this « loan » policy later on.
    Then, Monaco … they are anything but a club, they just a structure aiming at laundering (Monaco is a tax-heaven microstate) and making big money out of the sales of young (French, mostly) players, and they are very likely to do so by bending each and every one of the rules they are supposed to play by (« bending » is an understatement, just check out« Football Leaks-Rybolovlev-Mendes »). The boy had a part in the decision, of course, and he’s now a wealthy man, but so are his agent-advisers, and I’d be inclined to think they put some real pressure on him to sign up there, « there » in that case being not exactly the place for a kid with his profile (foreign, young, truly ambitious – which F. is) to thrive.
    This is a team without a public, something like 6000 spectators on average, and if the Arsenal stadium is a library, then « Stade-Louis-II » is a graveyard. Moreover, Folarin is competing for the CF position with Wissam Ben Yedder, who’s been the club’s CF, top-scorer, and skipper for 5 years, and who is not known for being particularly helpful to youngsters – certainly not as Laca was to Eddie, the exact opposite in fact. Lastly – and some might put the blame on the kid for it, I don’t – but Monaco lost their first games of the season against Nice, and Flo missed 2 penalties that day, which is bound to have weighed on his mind – which might still do, in fact. I’ll add a word or two about Hütter, who’s the caricature of a distant, ice-cold, manager, while Flo had given his very best under Will Still’s – the State de Reims’s manager – who is the exact opposite: warm, fun, straightforward, creative … Must have felt like being thrown head first into an ice bath, right at the end of a sunbathing afternoon on a Paradise Island, for our boy.
    Anyway, there is a pattern at the Arsenal since Arteta took over, which has been to give the cold shoulder (understatement, again) to our Hale End graduates. I said I’d get back to our « loan » policy, the truth is it has become a sinister joke. Who will do better than Flo at Reims, or Joe Willock at Newcastle, I’d like to know. What’s the point in loaning out our kids if, whatever they might prove during their loan spells, they’ll be shown the door by The Arsenal? What players would Joe, Folarin, Reiss, Emile too have become, had they been given the playing time – and their performances commented upon as benevolently – that was given to … I don’t know: Willian, Sambi, Vieira, Trossard, Jorginho, Havertz, Ceballlos, etc.? How can they improve if they do not play? Reiss is a case in point, he did extremely well at Feyenoord (I watched him play, too), was brilliant every time he was given a cameo last season, but was never given a real chance in the PL, and guess what – he’s kind of fading away, now … even though I found him excellent against Liverpool in the FA. By the way, the way his game was commented upon by the fans who find all sort of pretexts to justify buying players, rather than promoting some of ours, was enlightening … Nobody noticed that we played much better with him on the pitch (the ball moving much faster with him than with Martinelli – see Folarin above), and conceded the two goals only after he was taken off, nobody highlighted the quality of his positioning in the center of the pitch, the perfect timing of his run, both of which allowed Ramsdale to attempt this wonderful long pass (not the other way round), but there’s an infinity of « he missed an opportunity » – as though Alisson had done nothing for it and should be sold (and Eddie, Emile, along with him)?
    I’ve read Liam’s book lately, and unfortunately, I can only agree with him when he writes: « Many of the now more than 500 employees don’t have the foggiest idea about Arsenal or its history, … it felt like the soul of the place was being lost. … it had become more a business than a club. » It breaks my heart to say that what has happened to Joe, Folarin, and is happening to Reiss, Emile, Eddie might be the perfect illustration for this.

  2. It is very different to play in a team that has a lot of the ball or in a team that is playing some kind of counter attack football. As mentioned Monaco (as Arsenal) is playing wiht a lot of possession. This usualy gives less space for attackers as defences are more tight. Last season with Reims they played a bit more counter attacking with less possession (well the matches I watched) and so there was more room and less defenders to deal with. So at first sight it looks that Balogun needs lots of space to be dangerous. Space he wouldn’t find at Arsenal as we usually face a 10 man defensive lineup. So if Arsenal buy a new forward it has to be a player who is used to play in a team that has a lot of the ball. Otherwise the return may be less than expected. I wonder if Toney really would be the deal because of him playing in a team that does more defending usually….

  3. I would always like to give them a chance before they get discarded but we don’t get the games to give them a run out . Back in the day they came from the south east counties to the combination where they got to grow up in competitive football . However that’s something else that died because clubs claimed it was too expensive.

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