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- Could keeping Folarin Balogun have made a difference to Arsenal this season?
We recently published an article: Could keeping Folarin Bolgun have made a different to Arsenal this season? and in response our long term reader Le Gall wrote a detailed review of Folarin, from his own personal experience of watching the player.
I felt this was too good a piece to be left just in our correspondence column, and so with Le Gall’s kind permission I’m republishing the commentary here as an article, in case you missed it.
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 are 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.
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