As the current campaign draws to a close, speculation about how Mikel Arteta might reshape his Arsenal squad is mounting. In the last few days alone, there have been links with Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch, Wolfsburg’s Ridle Baku and Brazilian teenager Vitor Roque, who currently plays for Club Athletico Paranaense.
There have also been plenty of rumours about the future of Folarin Balogun. Having hit 18 goals in Ligue 1, the academy graduate has earned himself a number of suitors, both at international level, where he’s wavering on his England allegiance, and amongst top clubs in Europe.
Having worked hard in 2021 to tie the player down to a four-year contract, this summer the Gunners have to decide whether to integrate the 21-year-old into the first team or look to cash in.
It feels like a black-and-white decision with any prevaricating likely to prove costly in one way or another.
Had Balogun been as impressive at Middlesbrough on loan as he has been at Stade de Reims since August, Arsenal would no doubt have integrated him into the first team last summer. A year on and the picture is different. Arsenal have turned a corner on the firepower front and are no longer struggling for goals.
The attack can call on Gabriel Jesus, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and January signing Leandro Trossard. Between them, they’ve scored 45 goals and made 29 assists.
Is there room for another striker? Would we have to sell someone to accommodate Balogun? Can we offer enough game time to satisfy a youngster who is keen to establish himself at the top? Is his profile too similar to the options already at our disposal?
These are the questions Arteta and Edu have to ask themselves and ones Balogun himself will want answers to.
According to The Athletic, the player has already set out his stall by opposing a third loan move and currently has no plans to sign a new deal.
It’s a real conundrum, albeit a good(ish) one, complicated by interested parties testing the water with his agent.
There’s talk of an asking price in excess of €40 million. That figure would break Arsenal’s record price for a sale, so it’s not to be sniffed at. At the same time, having been dragged into a bidding war in January for Mkyhailo Mudryk, we’re well aware that with the right conditions, more money could be out there.
A sell-on clause is another means of topping up a base price if we expect him to have a successful career. Perhaps a buy-back option could be inserted?
It’ll be interesting to see what happens. Clearly, it’s not something we’re going to try and tackle before the current campaign is over so for the next few weeks the rumours will continue to circle.