Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Carsley tells Arsenal that Balogun needs sterner test

England under-21s head coach Lee Carsley says academy football is “a bit too easy” for Folarin Balogun but accepts the striker has a lot of competition for regular football at Arsenal.

The 20-year-old committed his long-term future to the Gunners in April and was subsequently tipped for a breakthrough year at the Emirates but the retention of Eddie Nketiah has limited his involvement in matchday squads.

While the striker did make his Premier League debut for a Covid-hit Gunners on the opening day of the season against Brentford, he’s only played 18 minutes of first team football since.

His frustration has been taken out on opponents at under-23 level, where he’s helped Kevin Betsy’s side to the top of Premier League 2 with 10 goals and two assists in eight appearances.

In Carsley’s eyes, those stats are evidence that Balogun needs a sterner test.

“You need testing,” he said. “Watching him in the Under 23s for Arsenal, it’s probably a little bit too easy for him and he’s passed that level.

“I imagine he wants to play for Arsenal and pushing for a position but it’s such a big club with a lot of competition.”

Carsley was quick to make clear he’s not criticising Arsenal’s handling of the player.

“They’ll have a career path for him and a way to break through because he’s got all the attributes. He’s level-headed, wants to work hard, asks really good questions. He wants information. He’s picking Ashley [Cole] and Joleon [Lescott]’s brains on defenders.

“I think it would be fair to say that a lot of the clubs in Europe would be aware of Flo’s qualities and if anything he has just got to keep proving it to himself.

“He is the only person he’s got to impress and look himself in the mirror. He’s got outstanding ability, attributes and work rate and he is a player that people look forward to seeing.”

Balogun has already been told he’ll lead the line for England under-21s when they face the Czech Republic on Thursday in a crunch European Championship qualifier.

Explaining the decision to let the striker know well in advance, Carsley added: “I wanted him to have that chance that to mentally prepare that he was going to be our No9 and our one that we’re looking at to score goals.I’ve seen that this week in training, I can see the focus he’s had and he’s relished that chance. It’s down to him now.”

Carsley also urged people to stop lazily comparing Balogun to fellow Gunner Eddie Nketiah. He firmly believes the young pretender is his own man.

“It’s always easy to compare younger players with someone and the easy comparison would be Eddie Nketiah,” he said. “But they’re totally different players. Flo has different attributes to Eddie. We’ve had Tammy Abraham, Dom Solanke, DCL, Adam Armstrong but he’s very much an individual, not like any of them.”

In retrospect, Arsenal probably should have sent Balogun on loan in the summer once it became clear that Nketiah wouldn’t be leaving. No doubt we’ll rectify the situation in in January although with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang heading to the African Cup of Nations we might not finalise the decision until later in the window.

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We should renew Eddie, convince him to take a loan at the end of January as a finishing School Then take the No9 shirt from Lacazette next summer Loan out Balogun at the end of January to League 1, pick up 15-20 games, then send him to the Championship for 40 games next season See how he develops, and if he develops well, he can inherit the No14 from Aubameyang in the summer of 2023 We could spend £50+ million on Isak or Vlahovic, but there’s never any guarantees with big transfer fees + wages I’d rather we created a… Read more »


I don’t think nketia is up to it to be honest. I think he misses some absolute sitters and some of the other stuff he does looks a bit sloppy, I know he’s young but I think we should let him go and get an upgrade and then slowly integrate Balogun into first team action.


Completely disagree. Nketiah ship has sailed. good player but not the level we need going forward. He’s doing a fine job putting himself in the shop window but he’s not one for the future at AFC. Balogun either gets promised playing time when Auba is off tot he AFCON (and he hopefully seizes on his chance), or its looking like a January loan to a decent championship side or lower PL side. Next year Laca will be gone, Auba will be transitioning out… we need to spend big on a first choice striker and hope that Balogun has done enough… Read more »

Nainsley Aitland Miles

I’m sure there’s a roadmap for Balogun (and Saliba in this bracket) which is dependent on how this season finishes. If we’re in the Europa League next season then they would ideally be penciled in for the group stage games on top of domestic cups. If we make the Champions League then we’re going to need stronger squad depth. I reckon the DCL rumours will be doing the rounds again next summer. Chelsea and Liverpool don’t need him. City will go in Kane. But there could be competition from Man United or Sp*ds for him. Nketiah may actually do well… Read more »


I agree. Arsenal should cope with Auba’s absence by playing Laca, Martinelli and Nketiah. Then it would be ideal to sell Eddie before the end of the January transfer window. Maybe to Newcastle for 20 millions 🙂

Balogun have to go on loan in January to play regularly against proper opposition. Just a few matches when Auba is off is not enough.


Nketiah is 22, we might well lose him, but I have feeling he’s going to surprise a few people


I hope so. So far he’s just not shown enough. I’ve not seen him operate as anything more than a poacher really.

Hank Scorpio

Keep in mind most of the time he’s played has been in a dysfunctional team that has struggled to create chances.


Nah, cash in and put it towards Isak


6 months loan and then see how he is looking.

Hopefully can be another Hale Ender in the first team.


Though he is older than Saka so maybe he is past it?


Players breakthrough at different ages. ESR was older than Saka when he started making inroads into the first team, but his time came with patience and good loan experiences.


ESR is older than Saka too. Usurping Auba and Laca is a lot tougher than getting game time on the wings

Wrighty’s hats

He’s only 20! I think comparing with Saka is a false equivalence, partly because like Tommmy said, the striker role is different for young players to break into than on the wings, and partly because Saka is a rare gem who has glided into the senior team like a fish takes to water. If we were in Europe this season I have no doubt that Flo would be starting games. We’re just a little oversupplied in the striker role atm for the number of fixtures we have, which doesn’t work in his favour so loan in the 2nd half of… Read more »


Gnarby – we surely got some lessons there!


I’m not sure why anyone is taking this seriously!!!
Does anyone believe that someone could think a 20 year old is past it??

Wrighty’s hats

My bad, I fell for it!! 😅


I was thinking that people would stop a moment and appreciate how fantastic the youngster Saka has been.


This is a case of clear screwup from our Youth system. At one point he was destined to leave for 15Mn+, then we convinced him to extend. Now how will our young players trust the ‘plans’, I don’t think Eddie will extend.

We should have a robust Loan system in place. Sad to see this.


It is. For all the wrongs Chelsea have with their youth system. Their loan system is on point. If Mikel likes to work with a small squad it’s fine, but our graduates should be challenged elsewhere. This 6 months are wasted for Balogun.

Hank Scorpio

Presumably all the down votes are from those who think the first half of the season has been time well spent.

Toure Motors

Arsenal should strongly insist that Ashley Cole is not allowed to speak to any of our players while on international duty.

A Different George

Yeah, when I saw he was “picking Ashley Cole’s brain,” I thought that can’t be good. Picking Ashley Cole’s pocket, however, would be hugely beneficial.


I think that the African cup of nations is a complete head wrecker of a competition.


I think the entire continent of Africa would disagree

Matt Stewart

Whilst I think getting advice on defenders from Cole is ok, I would strongly recommend Balogun resists any urges to give him an air rifle.

Teryima Adi

Bide your time, Balogun. The Arsenal is where you belong. You’re a legend in the making.


Germany in January, to a team that will actually play him.

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