Folarin Balogun says he’s open to a loan move in January and believes regular first team football will help him improve.
Handed the task of leading the attack for England under-21s against the Czech Republic on Thursday, the striker duly opened his account for the Young Lions before declaring “he’s ready for a new challenge.”
Earlier in the week, Lee Carsley, head coach of England under-21s, had suggested that academy football, the level at which Balogun has played most of his football this season, was probably too easy for the youngster.
“I feel like I am ready for a new challenge,” the 20-year-old told reporters after the 3-1 win.
“I feel like I have played youth football for a while. I have scored goals at that level and improved at that level drastically compared to now. At the same time I am not sure what that challenge might be.
“It might be a loan, or if I am needed at Arsenal I am here and the gaffer knows that as well. I feel like I am definitely open to a new challenge, wherever it is I will be ready.
“As a striker and as a young player you need minutes. It is the best way to learn and get consistency.”
While Balogun is clearly keen to make an impact at the Emirates, he also recognises that breaking into the first team is a gradual process.
“I speak to Emile [Smith Rowe] and Bukayo [Saka] a lot,” he said. “They tell me to be patient. They tell me it is not an overnight thing, which it hasn’t been for them. It would be naive for me to think that.
“You just have to keep practising, then you see the rewards and when you are ready you will take the opportunity.
“I know I am not at the level I want to be, but I know the performances I am putting in. I know I am going in the right direction.”
While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s participation in the African Cup of Nations will see Balogun edge closer to first team action in the new year, that small window of opportunity probably shouldn’t come at the expense of his long-term development. A loan makes sense although at this point, nothing is set in stone.
“I would like to get minutes at Arsenal,” he said. “I am not sure what his [Arteta’s] plans are.
“We did speak prior to me signing my contract and he said I should trust in him and that he has a plan for me. That was a big reason I stayed and decided to resign.
“I wouldn’t say I know his plan, per se, but there is a plan and I have spoken about it with various people at Arsenal.
“I have complete faith in the gaffer and yeah, I feel like whatever the plan is I will give 100 per cent and it will work out as it has done the rest of my career.”