By Sir Hardly Anyone
Folarin Balogun is 21. He was born in New York and has represented England at youth level and it seems that he is becoming something of a goal scorer although rather typically the non-Arsenal sites that have considered his progress have suggested he isn’t up to that much.
Earlier this year he went on loan to Middlesbrough with whom he started nine games and came on as a sub in nine more. He scored three goals. That doesn’t sound so good but two things should be remembered. He was 20 years old, away from home with his first ever loan, and getting nine starts and nine appearances as a sub. He also is credited with three assists. So, three goals in nine starts – one expects more from a centre forward. But on his first loan, and straight into the Championship where the defenders take no prisoners and refs couldn’t care less, not bad.
Middlesbrough ended the season in seventh, and during his time at the club their goals per game level went up from 1.19 per game to 1.4 per game. Not bad for a middle-of-the-table team. But of course the statistics show him as playing 18 games and scoring three – and that is what the media who have bothered to notice him have focussed on.
This season without Balogun Middlesbrough have slumped to 17th in the league. However Arsenal were able to find him another club: Reims, and this season his record is of a different order. Six goals, five games.
And what makes this even more extraordinary is that Reims have scored a grand total of10 goals this season in their six games – just three fewer than Marseille who are currently sitting second in the league on the same number of points after six games as the Uefa sponsored PSG.
Even more amazing is the fact that Reims has a major problem with its defence having already conceded 13 goals in six games, winning just one.
So six out of ten goals scored by our man in France, for a club sitting 14th. Reims’ ten goals total is actually more than four of the clubs in the league’s top ten. And if all that were not enough Martin Keown has compared Balogun to Ian Wright, due to his speed and intelligent movement.
Balogun joined Arsenal at the age of eight after being scouted while playing for the Sunday League side, Aldersbrook. Before going to Arsenal Tottenham took a good look and it is said they wanted to sign him. But he looked back and thought… maybe not.
Although to be honest we nearly lost him as in July 2020, his agent didn’t agree the contract with Arsenal, and he was almost sold to Brentford for £8m.
But he stayed and made his senior debut in the Europa League on 29 October 2020, coming on as a substitute in the game against Dundalk. His first goal came against Molde one month later and at the end of the season he signed a new contract.
And now he is with Reims where he has talked with Lacazette, now at Lyon. who apparently encouraged Balogun to try and season in France.
So far Balogun has been a key figure and is settling well both on and off the pitch for Stade de Reims. He’s scored five goals in six appearances for Oscar Garcia’s side since joining in early August and becomes part of Arsenal’s emerging loan strategy of focusing on sending players to Ligue 1 (Saliba, Tavares, Balogun) which may prove to be something that Premier League clubs consider going forward – the leagues are most common in style with the players’ stocks rising with every game.
He took just 21 minutes to score his first goal with them, although Reims lost the game 4-1 to Marseille who included in their line up Nuno Tavares, who also scored.
Nuno Tavares has now played six games and scored three for Marseille who are second in the league having scored 13 goals. Toulouse are 15th having scored seven. Here’s the top of the French league table…
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