SSFC spotlight: Folarin Balogun agrees on loan with Middlesbrough

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Fans of the United States Men’s National Team have been following Folarin Balogun for a few years, hoping the tri-national will commit to the program. The 20-year-old striker was considered one of Arsenal’s academy’s hottest prospects, a constant threat and an exciting talent. He struggled to break into the first team and recently signed up on loan at Middlesbrough in search of regular playing time. The next few months could dictate his immediate future, whether it’s proving himself to the parent club or leading to an exit.

Balogun was born in New York to Nigerian parents and moved to England when he was two years old. After a stint at Aldersbrook, he went on trial with Arsenal and Tottenhamopting to join the Gunners‘academy. After scoring 25 goals in one season with the U-16s, the club sign him to a scholarship contract.

After his promotion to the U-18 team in 2017, Balogun registered 38 goals and eight assists in 40 appearances, reaching the FA Youth Cup final and becoming “a more clinical finisher.” Arsenal sign him to a contract with the first team in February 2019. noted the prolific striker.

The following season, he scored ten times in 15 Premier League 2 appearances despite a lingering injury. The club took into consideration him “one of the most promising strikers in the academy”, but contract extension talks ‘broken down’ after ‘not being assured of a path to the first team’. Arsenal have turned down a £5m transfer offer from Brentford, while Southampton, AC Milanand Sheffield United too would have show interest corn failed meet the Assumed £8million desire fee.

Balogun made his senior debut in October 2020, a substitute appearance against Dundalk in the Europa League. The following month he scored his first professional goal against Molde, finding the back of the net 60 seconds after coming on. Manager Mikel Arteta has deployed him five times in the competition, but only two minutes outside of the group stage.

“I didn’t think this particular break was going to be my chance, but I always try to stay prepared and I’m happy that on this occasion it paid off,” Balogun noted after scoring. “It feels good. It’s nice to see the boss trusting me. I feel like it’s a good experience for me, I just need to keep learning, keep adding to my Game. “

His solid production continued at reserve level, registering nine goals and three assists in 18 appearances. Despite the lack of playing time, Arteta cited him as a “player [he] wants to stay at the club” with talent and ambition. liverpoolVfB Stuttgart and Swansea were among 15 parties monitoring its progress, hoping the striker would enter free agency during the summer.

With interest reaching fever pitch and reports that the decision has been made to leave, he has signed a contract extension with Arsenal until the summer of 2025. “We have been hugely impressed with Flo this season”, shared Arteta. “He continuously showed his natural ability in many training sessions with us and we were also impressed with his early integration into the first team on match days.”

Scheduled for a small group season, Balogun won his first minutes in the Premier League, playing in the 2-0 opening day defeat to Brentford. After making a substitute appearance the following week against Chelsea, Balogun was relegated to the second team. Demonstration his clear graduation from reserve level, he has contributed 15 goals and three assists in 13 appearances, with Arteta telling him to “keep the faith” and insisting on the existence of a “clear plan” For the development.

In search of a wife between the U23s and the Premier League, the club look at for other opportunities. Balogun, ready for ‘a new challenge’, was sent on loan to Middlesbrough last month until the end of the season. “I want to play senior football, fight for three points, push for promotion and there’s a lot of pressure here,” he said. Recount The mirror. “It’s a very good choice for me to be here and learn and score goals”

His time at the Riverside Stadium made positive headlines, failing to score but registering assists against Coventry and Derby County. The latter was a “a bit of breathtaking talent” finding teammate Duncan Watmore with a daring backheel. Boro manager Chris Wilder praised him for being a “constant threat,” which bodes well for the rest of his time at Riverside Stadium. Following his return to Arsenal, Balogun should be given another chance to enter the rotation, with no shortage of suitors should the decision be made to leave.

At international level, Balogun is eligible to represent England, the United States and Nigeria. He figured extensively for the Three Lions, making four appearances at the 2018 UEFA European Under-17 Championship and most recently competing with the U-21 side in the November qualifiers. the program “committed” to him, hoping to avoid another Yunus Musah-like departure.

the attacker accepted a call-up to the U-18 U.S. National Team in August 2018. He appeared in four games at the Václav Ježek Youth Tournament, scored twice and helped win the title. Nigeria too would have contacted him, although the Super Eagles seem to be a tertiary option.

From an early age, Balgoun was vaunted for his ability to “get in good positions and always score goals”. He favorite “playing on the shoulder of the last defender and running errands behind him.” A goal describe him as an ‘all-around striker’ who ‘creates chances’ and is ‘comfortable with both feet, shows fast pace, confident with his back to goal and finds small pockets of space in the [opponent’s] back line.”

“Balogun is fast” wrote Mark White for Break the lines. “It’s the first thing a spectator will notice about him and, ironically, the last thing a defender will notice. The striker is also comfortable on both feet. Most of his goals have come from occasions in which he clings to the edge of a high line, before losing his marker to find himself one-on-one with a keeper, his preference is to stand straight, lean left and open his body, before using his right foot to wrap the ball around either side of the keeper… With less time at his disposal, he is comfortable taking the ball around his man or slipping the first time with either foot.

For now, Balogun seems determined to stay with England, which is only to be expected given his upbringing and connection to the program. His current target is to increase his production at Middlesbrough and succeed with Arsenal next summer. USMNT fans will keep waiting, hoping the striker returns and adds another scoring threat to the offense. The attacking depth chart remains volatile and the potential to feature at the next World Cup or in 2026 are tantalizing opportunities for prospects looking to compete on the international stage.



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