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In Focus: Arsenal starlet Balogun shining in Ligue 1
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Dan Fitch
Folarin Balogun is the top scorer in Ligue 1
Folarin Balogun is the top scorer in Ligue 1

At a time when Arsenal lead the Premier League title race, one of their brightest prospects is making the most of his loan spell away from the club. 

Folarin Balogun, 21, joined French side Reims last summer and is currently the leading marksman in Ligue 1. 

The England Under-21s international is beating Paris Saint-Germain superstars Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in the scoring charts, yet his future with the Gunners remains far from certain.

Ahead of Reims' Coupe de France last-16 clash at Toulouse tonight, we take a look at Balogun's form and where he might end up playing next season. 

Top scorer

Balogun has scored 14 league goals in just 21 appearances since making a season-long loan move to Reims. 

Not only is he outscoring the most famous front three in football, he is also a goal ahead of former Arsenal colleague Alexandre Lacazette, who is now at Lyon. 

Balogun’s electric form has hit the headlines over the past couple of weeks, after he scored a stoppage-time equaliser at PSG and then grabbed his first senior hat-trick against Lorient days later. 

The young striker did not take long to acclimatise to life in France, scoring five goals in his first six games. 

Despite Balogun's flying start, Reims sacked boss Oscar Garcia last October and replaced him with the little-known Englishman Will Still. Since that appointment, the team are unbeaten in 14 matches, with their No29 a key performer.

Folarin Balogun is delivering impressive numbers for Reims
Folarin Balogun is delivering impressive numbers for Reims

Learning from Lewa

Currently 10th in Ligue 1, Reims are not prolific scorers. They have only found the net 26 times in 22 games this season, with Balogun contributing 54% of those goals. 

In Europe's top five leagues, only Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen have scored more often for their club. 

Balogun is tied on 14 goals with Barcelona's Robert Lewandowski, a player he models his game on. Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani is another inspiration. 

Speaking shortly after his move to France, Balogun said: "Cavani is the player I look up to for his runs in behind. We do a lot of drills in training to develop and enhance our runs. 

"I also look to  Lewandowski for his finishing and I go out to training early to work on my own, which will hopefully make everything sharper and more instinctive."

Folarin Balogun likes to cut in off the left wing
Folarin Balogun likes to cut in off the left wing

Arteta verdict

That devotion to improvement was highlighted by Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta after Balogun extended his contract in 2021. 

Arteta, 40, said: "He wants to practice more every single day. He has unique qualities as a striker, his speed and the way he holds the ball. He's a real goal threat and he works tremendously hard."

Having committed his future to the Gunners until 2025, Balogun spent the second half of last season on loan in the Championship at Middlesbrough. He only scored three goals in 21 games. 

Chris Wilder's counter-attacking team were probably not the best fit for a young striker looking to build his confidence. It put some pressure on him to deliver when he got the chance at Reims, which he has handled admirably. 

Now establishing himself as one of the most exciting attackers in Europe, the big question is where Balogun goes next. 

Mikel Arteta has a decision to make over Folarin Balogun's future
Mikel Arteta has a decision to make over Folarin Balogun's future

Future plans

The competition for the striker position at Arsenal is now intense, with Gabriel Jesus having impressed after his transfer from Manchester City and Eddie Nketiah performing well following Brazilian's injury. 

As much as Balogun has shone in France, it is hard to envisage Arteta jettisoning either of the strikers in his squad, particularly after what may well end up being a title-winning season. 

After making his debut in October 2020, Balogun has only played 10 games for Arsenal, scoring two goals. He will not want a situation where he once again sits on the sidelines. 

With his future in North London secure, there is no immediate pressure on Emirates chiefs to sell the academy product. Another loan might make sense for next season at a higher level than Reims.

There will surely be interest from Premier League clubs for an English striker with such pedigree.

The future may be unclear but it is undoubtedly bright. How Balogun continues to perform for Reims could have a big impact on where he plays his football next season.


Premier LeagueArsenalLigue 1Reims
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