With all the talk of potential incoming transfers at Arsenal in the summer window, there has been comparatively less talk about possible player sales in North London. It was expected that the club would cash in on Folarin Balogun’s fantastic season on loan at Reims, where he scored 21 Ligue Un goals, good for 4th in the competition. But recently, the reporting has shifted. Instead of Balogun’s departure being all-but-sealed, Eddie Nketiah is creeping into the shop window as well.
Let’s get it out of the way up front: Balogun is still far more likely to be sold than Nketiah. Balogun has definitively said that he will not go out on loan again and seems fixated on getting starter minutes, which would not be available to him at Arsenal. As impressive as Balogun’s play was this season in France and in two matches for the U.S. Men’s National Team, neither of those are the Premier League.
Nketiah is a known, proven commodity in England. He scored 4 goals while filling in as the starting striker while Gabriel Jesus was injured and appeared in all but 8 Premier League matches this season, most often as a second-half substitute. He’s familiar with Mikel Arteta’s system and seems relatively comfortable with his role as a super sub.
Nketiah is under contract through 2027. Balogun’s deal expires in 2025. The latter’s contract status makes him much more likely to be sold. An interesting wrinkle: both players are represented by the same agency.
If both were equally salable, who would you keep? It seems close to a toss-up to me. I think Balogun has the higher ceiling. Nketiah’s Premier League experience is valuable. The difficulty in evaluating / comparing the pair lies as much in separating out my (our) own biases from the analysis. We’ve seen plenty of Eddie Nketiah. We have a pretty good idea of what he is and isn’t as a player, and we’re more likely to be critical of his game because of that familiarity. Folarin Balogun is the exciting unknown. We’re inclined to interpret that as a positive, but it very well could be a negative. The shiny newness might be distracting us from (what could be) the truth that Balogun isn’t as good a fit as Nketiah.
What’s clear is that one has to go this summer. Selling players isn’t fun, especially when as in the case of Balogun and Nketiah, they’re Hale End products. And there will always be that fear you’ll pick the wrong one, that the player you do sell goes on to be a star and the one you keep fizzles out.
At the same time, Arsenal have needs elsewhere on the roster. Needs that, if addressed, will significantly improve the team, much more so than a backup striker ever could. The money from selling either Balogun or Nketiah will be put towards those spots. Balogun has drawn interest from French and Italian clubs. There is even talk that West Ham are interested, which has sparked rumors of Balogun going the other way in a cash + player deal for Declan Rice (unlikely). Nketiah, on the other hand, would likely remain in the Premier League with a mid- to bottom-table club.
Again, it will probably be Balogun who ends up sold, hopefully with a buyback clause in the contract. But there’s just a sprinkling of doubt creeping into the picture.