According to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, Arsenal could be set to lose Folarin Balogun this summer.
The striker has a year remaining on his contract and the report indicates that, after an agreement was unable to be reached on a new deal, Arsenal want Balogun to leave this summer so that they avoid losing him for free. It is also said that the club will look to insert sell-on clauses into exit arrangements.
Firstly, losing Balogun at this stage in his development would be a major blow. The prospect is about to turn 19 and was the standout performer for Arsenal U23s this season, scoring ten goals in 15 appearances.
While Balogun is prolific in front of goal, he has much more to his game, with his pace and technique making him very difficult for opposing defenders to deal with.
For all that, though, his involvement with the first-team has been minimal. Although he has trained with the senior squad, he has received just one callup, for the Carabao Cup tie against Nottingham Forest this season when he was an unused substitute.
Tyreece John-Jules, who was in the same scholarship intake as Balogun, certainly seems to be closer to the first-team at present. John-Jules was on the bench in the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Europa League this season (although he didn’t play) and was then sent out on loan to Lincoln to gain experience of senior football. In addition, he has been praised by Mikel Arteta, who likes his attitude and his link-up play.
It isn’t just John-Jules who Balogun has to compete with. Eddie Nketiah is now a key part of the first-team squad, while Gabriel Martinelli can also be used up front.
There will always be times when talented young players want to leave, and in some cases it is very difficult to keep them, especially if they feel that they can progress at a quicker rate elsewhere.
It would still be a major disappointment if Balogun was to leave, though, given the tremendous impact that he has made at youth level.
Arsenal have lost of host of highly-rated prospects in recent years. Some of them, including Serge Gnabry, Donyell Malen and Ismael Bennacer, are excelling on the big stage, while others have fallen by the wayside somewhat.
Failing to progress elsewhere isn’t always down to quality, either, as on some occasions players can’t adapt to a particular style of play, or they aren’t given the opportunities they feel they deserve.
Arsenal have many talented young strikers on their books beyond the first-team. The likes of John-Jules, Sam Greenwood and Khayon Edwards are all good prospects, but Balogun is arguably the best academy striker at the club.
Given his potential, Arsenal should be doing all they can to try and keep Balogun. His recent omission from first-team training gave the indication that all was not well, and now it seems that his time at the club could be coming to an end.