Discover more from Cannon Stats
Exit interviews: Folarin Balogun
Do Arsenal have room for one of Ligue 1’s best players of the season?
Exit Interviews is a series where Scott and Adam share their opinions on next steps for select Arsenal players. The series will run through early June.
It’s not every day you have a chance to add a top scorer from a top-five league to one of the best attacks in the world.
Balogun, 21, has found the net 20 times for Stade de Reims this campaign, helping Will Still’s side push for an unexpected mid-table finish. News reports seem to indicate Arsenal are closer to a sale than keeping the newly minted American international, but is that the right move?
Cannon Stats is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Adam: Balogun has really made Arsenal proud in France this season, and he’s won over a lot of members of the club’s fan base. In fact, I’d say alongside ESR and Tierney, this is the potential outgoing with the most support to stay. But if I’m being bluntly honest, this is one of the easier decisions for me. I’ll try to explain why.
Balogun’s campaign has earned him a lot of positive buzz, and for good reason. It’s not every day you see a 21 year old hitting this number of goals! The likes of Inter and Red Bull Leipzig are after him as a result.
Personally? I think Arsenal should capitalize. It’s not every day you have a sale like this fall into your lap at Arsenal, and the club do very much need the money for other positions.
What’s more, I think there are enough holes in Balogun’s performance to date to question whether he’d make the transition to English ball smoothly. 20 is a much jazzier number than 14, for instance, and 14 is the number of his goals that are not penalties. He’s also been on quite the cold streak of late, having scored 3 non-pens in his last 16 games, a stretch in which he’s amassed 9.1 npxG.
Balogun’s loan stint has also showed off a tendency for turning the ball over and a lack of creativity, two things Arsenal have struggled when they’re missing at the 9, and he’s not the aerial threat to make up for it. I’m not saying this makes him bad, but it’s enough to raise my eyebrow.
The other element of this is logistics and supply and demand. Given Balogun’s contract, and that of Eddie Nketiah, he’s by far the most sellable striker Arsenal have got. Most of the investment any club would make in Eddie would have to go toward paying his wages, which would reduce the fee greatly.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, I think Eddie would be doing really well in France, too. What he did for Arsenal before going cold was impressive, something that not every young striker could replicate.
As Balogun is shopped, there will be calls for huge numbers like £70 million because of what other strikers have sold for, but that’s not in line with what young stars from France have gone for. And more people need to understand that the buyer pool sets the price. Inter and Leipzig, if those are the clubs, have a combined one transfer ever for more than €50 million. (RBL have never topped €30m, for what it’s worth). It’s likely to me that they won’t be making it two this summer.
Adam’s Verdict: Sell for €40 million with an €80 million buy-back clause effective summer 2025, if the buyer agrees.
Scott: While Adam found this one easy I don’t.
I really like Balogun and have found his growth incredibly promising and I think the possibility that he is a player able to contribute on a top team is a real possibility and for that to happen with any player through the youth academy is incredible.
He’s scored 20 goals this season (yes there are 6 penalties in that total) and that’s just impressive to at his age, especially when it doesn’t seem to be fluke type situation.
He looked solid in the Championship at getting shots, but this year he has gone to the next level with over 3 shots per 90 and almost 3 from open play. Overall it is an impressive-looking shot map concentrated right around the penalty spot, with an excellent average shot quality.
From the team’s perspective, they find themselves in a tough spot. It is a wonderful problem to have, but it is still incredibly hard.
In a perfect world, you probably want to see one year on information but for you make the big call but that doesn’t seem like it is going to happen. He’s at the magic two years to go on his deal and the player understandably wants to sort out where he will be at a pivotal moment in his career, where going on loan or playing as a limited minutes backup doesn’t seem to be something he wants to do.
There is also the chance that this is the peak of his value and Arsenal are looking at a summer where there are numerous signing on deck and something to help balance out the net spend is a real benefit right now.
I think this last part is what finally pushes me over the edge and think that selling is still best, given the signals that have come from his camp on his openness to an extension.
Scott’s Verdict: Sell for €40 million