There is plenty of expectation and excitement regarding the future of Folarin Balogun at Arsenal, which is why there will have been many of us keeping tabs on what he has managed to achieve away from the Emirates Stadium this season.
Of course, he had been enjoying the final few months of the season on loan at Middlesbrough in the Championship, with the 20-year-old New York-born forward getting some valuable minutes and experience at a senior level.
But, now that the football season has come to an end, how well did Balogun actually get on whilst he was at The Riverside Stadium. We will take a look in this article at what he managed to achieve whilst away from the Gunners and look at whether he potentially did enough to convince Mikel Arteta that he is ready for a place in the first team, or if he should perhaps spend a whole season out on loan next year and get further match experience at a senior level.
Folarin Balogun had a solid time on loan at Middlesbrough
Many of us will remember that he was tearing it up in the Premier League 2 for our developmental side during the first part of the season, as he managed to net 13 goals in 11 appearances, therefore a loan for the second half of the 21/22 campaign only seemed like the next and natural step regarding his progression as a potential Arsenal footballer.
Indeed, those who continued to keep tabs on him and watch him closely would not have been disappointed with what he managed to achieve, especially given that it was his first real exposure to professional football at a senior level, aside from the couple of appearances he has made for the Gunners first team.
Balogun managed to appear in 18 Championship matches for Middlesbrough in his short spell with the club, making nine starts and being substituted into the game in an additional nine. He managed to make a difference to Chris Wilder’s side, too, as he managed to net three times, as well as assist a further three goals.
Indeed, six goal contributions from the 20-year-old have to be considered impressive in the division that is just one under the level of the Premier League, whilst it is important to also take into account the fact that he has had very limited first-team football at this early stage of his career.
Those performances are likely to have caught the eye of everyone at the Emirates Stadium, including Arteta, and they will perhaps be thinking about what the next step of his progression will be. Is he ready for the first team? Or, is he better suited to going out on loan to another club in the Championship or abroad for the entirety of the 22/23 season?
We would hazard a guess that the latter of the two options would potentially be the best option for him, and even suggest that the MLS could be a good option if he were to be able to attract interest from sides that are based across the Atlantic.
Why could the MLS be a good move for Balogun?
There are a number of different reasons why the MLS could potentially be considered a good move for the young forward.
The first of these is the fact that he was born in New York. Indeed, whilst he was only born there and subsequently emigrated to England as a two-year-old when his parents moved, it could be a place where he is well-received by fans, especially if he were to end up with a New York-based franchise.
Fans may be happy to encourage and welcome “one of their own” despite the fact that he is a current England Under-21 international, especially if he were to turn out for one of the franchises that play in The Big Apple as New Yorkers are now able to place sports bets on their favorite team.
Indeed, Caesars sportsbook New York will give you the best odds to support the local teams when in action on the field, and the arrival of Balogun would potentially give fans something more to cheer about, although they already have plenty to cheer about.
Given the strong start to the season experienced by both New York City FC and New York Red Bulls, the sportsbook has already made them amongst the favorites to be winners of the MLS this year. NYFC has been provided with odds of +400 (the favorite), whilst NYRB has been made the fourth favorite with odds of +1,100.
Therefore, it could be argued that teams in this particular state may not actually look at Balogun as a necessity, even if he were to be made available on a temporary switch. Nonetheless, this does not mean the MLS would not be a bad switch to make.
There are still a number of teams that would benefit from his ability on the park, whilst there is no denying that increased exposure to senior football – regardless of the level that it is played at – would still be very valuable and beneficial for the youngster.
Could Matt Turner help him with advice?
Arsenal recently acquired Matt Turner from the New England Revolution and will see him arrive at the Emirates Stadium on July 1, once the summer transfer window re-opens officially. The USMNT’s ‘keeper, who is a native of New Jersey, may be able to share a few words of wisdom with Balogun about how the MLS could potentially improve him and what it could offer.
The goalkeeper has managed to make over 100 appearances for the Revs in the MLS over the course of his career so far, which is why he could be a valuable asset to the American-born England Under-21 international.
Of course, a lot of this would all depend on whether a franchise is actually interested in the young forward and if Arsenal were actually going to be open to allowing the forward to leave on loan once again in the upcoming season.
We would suspect that Arteta will want to see him continue his development in a first-team setting, but where that may be clearly remains to be seen, especially if the talented individual has a number of options available to him.