Folarin Balogun has signed a new contract to remain at Arsenal through 2025. Today’s announcement makes official the news that he’d resolved to remain at the club from earlier this month. The 19-year old striker was reportedly being courted by as many as 15 other clubs, but decided to remain in North London at the club where he’d grown up. Balogun joined Hale End at 9-years old and signed a scholar contract at 17 to bridge him to becoming a full professional.
Balogun was born in New York City and has represented both the United States and England at various international youth levels. He is also eligible to play for Nigeria. He’s made six first-team appearances for Arsenal this season, scoring goals away to Molde and home against Dundalk. He’s added 8 goals in 18 appearances in the Premier League Two and the EFL Trophy. Those second-tier scoring numbers would be higher, I think, if he hadn’t been brought into first-team training at various points in the fall. He’s now full-time with the first team.
Balogun’s decision to stay at the club likely signals the end of Alexandre Lacazette’s tenure at Arsenal. The French striker’s contract is up at the end of next season, and I expect the Gunners to look to sell him in the summer window. A striker depth chart of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah, and Folarin Balogun next season should be able to carry the scoring load. I’ve intentionally left Gabriel Martinelli off that list because it’s not clear whether Mikel Arteta views him as a striker or a winger long-term, but regardless, he can lead the line and fits somewhere on that list.
Arsenal might also opt to sell Eddie Nketiah, who is also out of contract after next year, should the right offer come along to help fund the purchases of reinforcements elsewhere in the lineup. I don’t have as good of a read on Nketiah’s situation. While he’s shown himself an adept goal-poacher, I’m not sure he’s got “it” to succeed at Arsenal. He’s 21-years old and definitely still has room and time to develop. The flip side of that is his age and England youth international performances make him a tempting target for other Premier League sides. I think if Arsenal don’t sell him in the summer, they’ll work hard to sign him to a contact extension whereas if they aren’t able to sell Lacazette in the summer, Arsenal will probably let him leave on a free transfer.
Either way, having a proven, veteran striker backed up by a roster of young talent is precisely where Arsenal want to be and retaining a highly-rated Hale End product is fantastic. Balogun will join Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock, and Eddie Nketiah as recent Hale End graduates to breakthrough to the first team. Although some of those guys may be on the move this summer, with Miguel Azeez, Ben Cottrell, and a handful of other top prospects waiting in the wings, Arsenal look to have a strong, young core of academy players around which to build.