Arsenal have ended months of scrutiny by finally tying down talented youngster Folarian Balogun onto a new four-year contract.
While the main talk this week has been around Arsenal’s controversial place in the supposed European Super League, the New York born forward’s contract has been something of an albatross around the Gunners’ necks this season, with increasing pressure being exerted on Mikel Arteta and Edu to get the talented teen signed up to a new deal, with as many as 15 clubs reported to have offered contracts to the player, with Arsenal’s not even being the highest.
We have been extremely impressed with Flo this season. He has continually shown his natural ability in many training sessions with us and we have been equally impressed with his early integration into the first-team squad on matchdays. He has given us glimpses with the performances and of course with his two goals already for the first team. The hard work starts here for Flo and we are all looking forward to supporting and working with him in the years to come.”Mikel Arteta on Balogun’s new contract.
Balogun was subject to a bid from Sheffield United in the summer, however, Arsenal were reportedly holding out for no lower than £15m, a fee that United were unwilling to pay.
The decision for Balogun to renew his contract with Arsenal is a welcome yet surprising one. Not only are Arsenal currently sat in 10th place in the league table, but Balogun has also found first-team opportunities thin on the ground.
Despite having seemed to hit the ground running with two goals in Arsenal’s group-stage Europa League matches away at both Dundalk and Molde, the striker has yet to feature in the Premier League and has struggled to force his way into the side.
The lack of game time that Balogun has been receiving was initially thought to be a major stumbling block for Balogun and his agents, however, his path to first-team action next season seems a lot clearer with Mikel Arteta providing the forward with further game time guarantees and with Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette likely to be leaving in the summer.
Balogun’s contract status had meant that a number of clubs, both domestically and abroad had been keeping tabs on Balogun and had made several attempts to sign the player. Domestically, Crystal Palace, Everton and Manchester City were all reported to have made contact with the player, while RB Leipzig were keeping close tabs on the player.
However, Bayer Leverkusen looked the most likely to snap Balogun up, with a formal pre-contract offer being tabled by the club.
It has always been Balogun’s intentions to remain at Arsenal, the club he has been at since he was eight-years old and no doubt the continued faith shown in youngsters like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe by manager Mikel Arteta has played a part in Balogun’s decision.
For Arteta’s part, the Spaniard has always been clear in his desire for Balogun to remain at the club and has always been outwardly confident of keeping the player.
While many have pointed to Arteta’s seeming unwillingness to play Balogun in the league, it is not entirely crazy to see why Arteta has not handed Balogun much in the way of game time.
Arsenal’s precarious league position, yo-yoing form and a tendency to switch off in the latter stages of a match has produced an environment in which the manager is unlikely to want to throw a young player into.
There is also the issue that Balogun had not yet signed a new contract either, which further complicated issues. Arteta was unwilling to hand game-time to a player who had not committed his future to the club long-term.
It seems more likely that Balogun will see a larger role in the Arsenal squad next season, but Arsenal and Arsenal fans will be relieved to know that the issue is now dealt with and there is no chance of a repeat of the same situation that saw Serge Gnabry leave for Werder Bremen amidst a shroud of controversy.