Folarin Balogun: Arsenal's Next Hitman
Dublin , Ireland - 10 December 2020; Folarin Balogun of Arsenal during the UEFA Europa League Group B match between Dundalk and Arsenal at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Ben McShane/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Following months of uncertainty and speculation, Folarin Balogun is set to extend his stay in North London by signing a new long-term deal with Arsenal

The 19-year-old has been a part of the Arsenal set-up since the age of eight, but his future with the club had come under serious doubt as his contract neared its expiration date.

However, it is looking increasingly likely that the England Under-20 international's future remains at the Emirates Stadium, with Mikel Arteta recently announcing during his Slavia Prague press conference that the club is "going to make it official once everything is done". 

Despite interest from no fewer than 15 clubs - both domestic and foreign - Arteta and Edu have worked tirelessly to convince Balogun to renew his contract, thus upsetting any potential suitors who were aiming to sign the striker on a Bosman in the summer.

With that in mind, Arsenal VAVEL takes a look at the importance of keeping Balogun in north London and what to expect from him in the future. 

Goal Scoring Prowess

It goes without saying, but one trait any good striker has to have is the ability to score goals, and Balogun scores goals in abundance. 

Having worked his way up through the Hale End academy, Balogun has registered impressive goal scoring stats at every level he has played.

Since the 2016/17 season, Balogun has scored 62 goals and notched 15 assists in 94 appearances in all competitions which equates to a G/A every 85 minutes. 

Some questions marks were raised as to whether the New York native would be able to showcase his ability on the senior stage, to which Balogun duly answered with two goals and one assist in four Europa League games in the 2020/21 season. 

Additionally, Balogun is adept at finding and setting up his teammates, which is reinforced by his assist record. His style of play is multi-dimensional and, having developed alongside the likes of Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah, he will better understand the movements of his colleagues at club level which will benefit Arsenal going forwards. 

A Clear Pathway

With Arsenal's senior strikers coming into the twilight of their careers, it is apparent that Balogun has a clear pathway into the first team. Alexandre Lacazette is turning 30 and has yet to give a clear indication that he will sign a new contract with his current deal ending in June 2022. 

Moreover, although a contract extension was signed in the summer of 2020, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is 31-years-old and will need to be replaced adequately in the next few years. 

With Eddie Nketiah very much on the periphery of the Arsenal team, it appears as though Balogun is the preferred candidate to take the responsibility of leading the Gunners line for the foreseeable future. 

Balogun has developed his football by playing the Arsenal way, meaning he should have no trouble adapting to the style of play that Arteta wants to implement and he will no doubt continue to be an important cog in Arsenal's machine in the coming years. 

Building A Team Around The Youth

One thing that is clear is the long-term goal of building a title-winning side around a crop of talented youngsters.

Both Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have recently extended their contracts, whilst Arsenal are set to extend Emile Smith Rowe's contract in the summer. 

Furthermore the likes of William Saliba, Miguel Azeez and Mattéo Guendouzi will look to be given more game time next season and it appears Balogun could well be another young talent who will benefit from increased exposure to first team football in the 2021/22 campaign. 

However, Arteta may opt to send Balogun out on loan in order to get guaranteed game time which will only serve to help rather than hinder the youngsters progress.

Other youth team players - such as Dinos Mavropanos at VfB Stuttgart, Tyreece John-Jules at Doncaster Rovers and Matt Smith at Swindon Town - have enjoyed fruitful loan spells away from Arsenal, which should motivate Balogun if he is set for a loan move. 

Arsenal are a team with an exciting future ahead with a plethora of talented young players coming through the ranks.

Arteta has demonstrated that he is happy to put faith in those players and provide them with sufficient first team opportunities should they rise to the occasion. 

It is important that the club fight hard to keep those players, which is why extending Balogun's contract is imperative and it seems as though he will continue to don Arsenal's red and white shirt for the foreseeable future.