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Folarin Balogun joins Middlesbrough on loan [Updated]

Finally, the chance the talented young forward has been waiting for.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Quarter Final Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Update: On Wednesday the club released the official statement on Folarin Balogun’s loan move to Middlesbrough.

Arsenal’s #9 is in a complete state of upheaval. Former captain and 92-goal scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been pushed out of the team and is linked with a move away from the Emirates this month. Alexandre Lacazette’s contract runs out in June and several clubs across Europe are circling for the free transfer. Eddie Nketiah has always been down the depth chart behind those two and knows the best move for his future is away from North London. Leaving Mikel Arteta and Edu with a giant gap up top, potentially.

Rumors abound of numerous forwards the club may sign this month or in the summer. But with a full overhaul in the striker depth chart, talented academy product Folarin Balogun knows he will have his chance. After lighting up once again with the U23s this fall, he is set for a loan move to Middlesbrough in the coming days.

After productive seasons for Arsenals U23s over the last two years, 10 and 8 goals respectively, Balogun is clearly a step above the U23 level at this point. He’s already managed 14 goals in Premier League 2 this season and has pushed onto the edges of the senior matchday squad. Too good to spend another five months in the development system, but not yet ready to help Arsenal challenge for a Champions League spot. This move is ideal for both the player and Arsenal’s future.

Middlesbrough are currently on a great run of matches and sit 7th in the Championship table. They’ve won six of their last seven matches including the FA Cup Third Round this past weekend. Despite their strong first half of the season, 12 other clubs have bettered or equaled their Goals For to date (29 from 25 league matches). Middlesbrough’s leading scorer is 27-year-old Andraž Šporar, with 6, but the club sees Balogun as an added strength to help them secure a spot in the playoffs.

Balogun’s departure is a hit to the Gunners PL2 title chase aspirations, but there are still plenty of attacking options remaining. Mika Biereth has six goals and three assists and will be combining efforts with the returning Nikolaj Möller. After 8 goals for the Arsenal U23s last season, he had an uneventful half-season loan in 3.Liga with Viktoria Köln this fall.

Ideally, Folarin Balogun gets match time with Middlesbrough and the chance to test himself against Championship level opposition. By the start of next season, Aubameyang, Lacazette, and Nketiah could all be out of the Emirates and a massive void up top for Balogun to stake his claim to. A successful loan and he could find himself as the #2 striker for Arsenal come August.