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

For 13 years, Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun has been the face of the crowd. Born in New York City, the striker’s family moved to England when he was two, and after joining the Gunners academy at the age of 8. For ten years, he developed the coaching Arsenal players such as Robin van Persie, Olivier Giroud and Pierre. -Emerick Aubameyang.

This season was his breakthrough, he scored 10 goals while on loan to French Ligue 1 side Reims in the first half of the season. It would be great to be the club’s top scorer and open up further discussions about where his future lies, as Balogun is fit to represent England, United States Together with Nigeria.

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

What made Balogun so successful in France, and how will he fit into an American national team program with a strong interest in a competitor (he should choose the US)? Let’s dive in.

Player data

At the end of the 2019-20 season, 19-year-old Balogun has yet to make a senior appearance for Arsenal, although he has represented England and the United States in their youth teams. especially the 2018 UEFA European Under-17 Championship and the Václav Ježek Youth (U-18) Tournament.

The 2020-21 campaign presents his career with a breakthrough: Balogun opened his Arsenal account during the Europa League group stage before receiving a winter loan to Middlesbrough for a regular season. Playing under Chris Wilder at Boro, Balogun scored three goals while adding three assists in 18 competitive games.

On his return, Arsenal hoped a year with Stade de Reims could extend his development curve in Ligue 1 as William Saliba on the other side of the pitch.

As seen, a dream move for all parties. Talk to The Athletic Last month, Balogun said that Arsenal team-mates Alexander Lacazette and Nicolas Pépé had once told him to try his hand at the French first division because he was often involved in physical activity. .

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

As it turns out, Pépé’s “difficulty” did not go unnoticed. The striker scored his 10th goal of the Ligue 1 campaign with a brace against Rennes as Reims returned to action after the World Cup. He did so by managing 19 hits, his fewest in a league start since late August. He missed the team competition on January 2 with a hamstring problem has been reportedwith Reims finishing 1-1 away at Lille.

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So, what has changed?

Balogun may not have been set up for success in his first loan. Being asked to lead the line for the team in the promotion battle is no small feat for the player’s first entry. In an established Ligue 1 side, Balogun was able to prove himself more.

Stat 2021-22* 2022-23**

Shots/90 (% on goal)

2.2 (54.2%)

3.11 (46.5%)

xG/90 (npxG/90)






Touch on a pen/90









* With Middlesbrough (EFL Championship)
** With Reims (Ligue 1)
Data on Wyscout

Although it was difficult to get a picture with Boro, he was determined to put them in the picture. He finished his sessions close to his expected number, even with less service. It pales in comparison to what he managed in the first half of the Ligue 1 campaign. Despite his 3-for-3 record from the penalty spot, Balogun managed 0.48 goals scored. not counted for 90 when counting for overtime.

He was given more licenses to play in a more advanced position, to record another hit in the box for two games, he was caught out in the same photo – showing a license especially to break behind the line, which is not a bad thing – but adds almost a new successful run for each game. Those aren’t dramatic improvements on his Championship output. That’s the kind of side that turns a striker from a high-profile loanee into a much-loved young striker.

Here are Balogun’s percentage points in the table below compared to their peers in the “Big 5” men’s leagues, Champions League and Europa League over the last 365 days. Balogun played a total of 1160 minutes during that time.

Stat # for 90 minutes percentage

Penalty free box






Total shot



npxG+help expected



Shooting activities



Run successfully



Successive errors are available



Dribbles stop



Information via fbref dot com

If there’s room for improvement, it’s in his aerial game. Listed at 5-foot-10 (1.55 meters), Balogun is not adept at scoring headers with Reims whether the ball is floating from set pieces or the run of the ball. game. The Smarterscout database ranks players from zero to 99 based on how well they perform a certain action. It also tells us how well they compare to others in their position.

However, he was at his best when he took on opponents with the ball at his feet and scored in Reims’ first strike. Although we would like to see a whole section up, the number of true targets is decreasing every year.

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Balogun favors a more archetype – even accounting for the difference in quality between Ligue 1 and the Premier League, as smarterscout sees. his pizza menu.

The future

After showing England and America the youth standards and holding the Nigerian right, Balogun said Ligue 1 website in November to decide who will replace him immediately. Although the past few years have seen some serious decisions made by the likes of Sergiño Dest, Yunus Musah, Gaga Slonina and Malik Tillman among others, Balogun is undaunted by the idea.

“I have no problem with it,” Balogun said. “It is the responsibility of the media to ask these kinds of questions and I agree. I will make a decision soon and that decision will not depend on what the media or people think but what is best for me. We will talk quietly with my family.

He spoke positively about his US experience in the same interview.

“Well, when I was 17, the American team offered me a friendly match in the Czech Republic in the summer,” Balogun said. “I played for England in the Euro U-17 a few months ago, but after talking with my family I decided to go. And we won the tournament! It was a good experience because I see a different style of play and different ways of doing things. I’m talking to some people I met there.

While his family may be considering his choices in private, the rest of us in the public arena may be putting a lot of scrutiny on his choices. England’s campaign ahead of the 2026 World Cup is well headed, as Harry Kane has 32 and Marcus Rashford only 28. Villa’s Cameron Archer, Leeds’ Joe Gelhardt, and Tottenham’s Dane Scarlett are not. establish themselves at the club level.

Nigeria are the deepest of the three countries, with Napoli ace Victor Osimhen leading a team that includes Ademola Lookman, Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho and Terem Moffi, who have scored 10 goals in the Ligue 1 season. continues with Lorient.

But for the US, no position has been weaker in the last five years than the striker. In the era of Gregg Berhalter, the team chose to play its opponents in a more isolated manner, asking them to play in construction and create opportunities for their wings and themselves.

Although Jesús Ferreira was the summer’s top choice in a deep position, he struggled in his only World Cup appearance, a start against the Netherlands in the round of 16. Josh was better. Sargent was alongside Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah but was unable to find opportunities of his own before missing the knockout victory through injury. Haji Wright came in as the chosen option and clean sweeper, but he struggled to compete in the match after a good start against Wales.

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All three presented a different approach to the situation; the three of them fight. In Balogun, the project finds its white whale: it can be a good competitor and increase the current options.

Balogun vs 2022 World Cup qualifiers USA, 2022-23*

Balogun vs. United States 2022

Balogun Ferreira Sergeant Wright

Shots/90 (% on goal)

3.11 (46.5%)

2.58 (49.4%)

2.08 (56.3%)

2.37 (35.9%)






Touch on a pen/90





Forward/90 (% accurate)

3.4 (57.4%)

6.27 (53.7%)

3.37 (61.5%)

1.76 (69%)

Dribbles/90 (% win)

2.96 (53.7%)

1.48 (49%)

3.16 (52.1%)

4.56 (52%)

Aerial Duels (% win)

2.53 (20%)

1.04 (19.4%)

5.58 (38.8%)

5.6 (41.3%)

Return opp ½





Data on Wyscout
* All data for 2022-23 league action will retain Ferreira, using the full 2022 MLS season.

Not only did Balogun shoot more shots for 90, but he did so in a prestigious position of putting shots on the frame. His non-penalty xG of 0.52 is the highest in this class, not to mention his 0.64 clip factoring in three converted penalty kicks.

The rest of the stats help to show how he played for Reims, even if you don’t watch Ligue 1. The first match photos help show the difference between Ferreira – a fake depth if ever there was one – and with Wright, more of a regular line-leader box forward. On that spectrum, Balogun is almost the same as Sargent, as motivated by the number of dribbles he attempts. Unlike the Norwich forward, however, Balogun didn’t show much ability in the air while slowing down in the front line.

However, based on the numbers alone Balogun presents a better threat than the current US men’s cage without weighing the many factors that have contributed to Sargent (and, optionally, Ricardo Pepi) to be the right options between Pulisic, Weah and others. wing options.

Although January did not see Balogun change clubs, his loan to France certainly took his game to another level. Whether he joins Musah and Tillman in leading the US to the 2026 World Cup or becomes one of the main champions of the program like Neven Subotić or Giuseppe Rossi remains to be seen.

While he remains confident, it is clear that his senior career is on the way – whether he is in Mikel Arteta’s plans for Arsenal moving forward or not.

(Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)


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