How Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun would fit with USMNT after breakout season

For 13 years, Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun was the public eye. The New York City-born striker’s family emigrated to England when he was two years old, ultimately joining the Gunners’ academy at the age of 8. For over a decade, he developed while studying Arsenal forwards like Robin van Persie, Olivier Giroud and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. 

This season has been his breakthrough, having scored 10 goals while on loan to French Ligue 1 side Reims through the first half of the season. That’s good enough to be the club’s top scorer and open more discussion as to where his international future may lie, as Balogun is eligible to represent England, the United States and Nigeria. 

And while Arsenal has yet to recall him as a replacement for the injured Gabriel Jesus, his torrid form has opened a lucrative potential transfer market for teams in need of a goalscorer.

What has made Balogun so successful in France, and how might he fit in to a U.S. national team program in desperate need of a striker (should he choose the U.S.)? Let’s dive in. 

Player profile

At the end of the 2019-20 season, the then-19-year-old Balogun had yet to log a single senior club appearance for Arsenal, though he had represented both England and the United States in their youth national teams, most notably (respectively) at the 2018 UEFA European Under-17 Championship and the Václav Ježek Youth (U-18) Tournament. 

The 2020-21 campaign provided his career with a breakthrough of sorts: Balogun opened his Arsenal scoring account during the Europa League group stage before securing a winter loan to Middlesbrough for more regular match action. Playing under Chris Wilder at Boro, Balogun bagged three goals while adding three assists in 18 Championship matches. 

Upon his return, Arsenal thought that a year with Stade de Reims could speed up his developmental curve in Ligue 1 as it had for William Saliba on the other end of the pitch.

As it turns out, it’s been a dream move for all parties. Speaking with The Athletic last month, Balogun said that onetime Arsenal teammates Alexander Lacazette and Nicolas Pépé each suggested he try his hand at the French first division for more frequent involvement in a physical league. 

“(Pepé) just said to stay positive, keep working hard and then he said to maybe think about a loan to the French league, ‘I’m sure you can do well in this league if you apply yourself’,” Balogun said in December, “He set me a challenge of getting 10 goals in the league and said, ‘If you do that, you’ve made progress.’”

As it turns out, Pépé’s “challenge” has hardly seemed a steep one. The striker notched his 10th goal of the Ligue 1 campaign with a brace against Rennes in Reims’ return to action following the…

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Read More: How Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun would fit with USMNT after breakout season 2023-01-06 16:49:10

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