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Folarin Balogun flourishes in Ligue 1
The Arsenal loanee is showing off his potential with Reims
When you sort the Ligue 1 stats by goals, a couple of surprising name jumps into the top of the list. There is Mabappe, David, Moffi, Ben Yedder, Lacazette, Neymar, and then Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun.
Balogun has scored 10 goals in 18 matches played this season, really boosting his standing and having this loan look like a masterstroke of a decision by Arsenal and his representatives.
Balogun has been a highly thought-of prospect coming out of the Hale End. What he hadn’t done yet was prove his potential against grown men. He made two appearances last season for Arsenal (one of those being thrown into the fire on the opening day of the season) and then made a midseason loan to the Championship.
His stint over that period was good, putting up above-average overall numbers for a team that was chasing a promotion playoff spot.
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This season he has continued that progress and made things even more impressive taking a step up from the Championship to a Big Five League team.
Let’s dig into the numbers
Balogun is putting up very strong shot numbers with a shot map that is quite tasty. The vast majority (89%) of his shots are inside the box and a good portion coming in the danger zone.
He is adding a few key passes and is at a very good 0.7 NPxG plus xA this season.
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Back to the post…
Looking at Balogun in Reims team it is pretty clear to see that he is the main thrust of their attack.
Balogun has taken shots worth just over 9 expected goals and while he has been on the field Reims have produced just 25.5 expected goals. With the shots it is a similar but not quite as drastic story, with Balogun taking about a quarter of their shots, having taken 45 of the 197 while he is on the field.
Overall he has been involved in just under half of all the expected goals either through the build-up, assisting, or taking the final shot.
Balogun favors a fairly central average position but with his passes received favoring a bit to the left half-space where he can turn infield and more easily find his stronger right foot (somewhat surprisingly his shooting suggests that he is pretty two-footed with just 56% of his footed shots favoring his right)
He is averaging a little over 8 touches within 25 yards of the goal and 5.6 touches in the box per 90 minutes. Both are very good numbers for a striker.
His overall performance backs up that this has been a very successful loan spell for him.
One of the things that is looking clearer is that Arsenal are becoming better at managing the development path of their players that are too good for the academy but not quite ready to help with the first team. This has been a phenomenal loan spell to get Balogun the needed minutes to keep his development from stagnating.
The tough question will be where does his future lie and what does the player want to do, because the talent question is becoming something that is less of an open issue.