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Arsenal icon Nigel Winterburn insists he has a “gut feeling” that striker Folarin Balogun will be handed the opportunity to impress Mikel Arteta at the Emirates Stadium next season. Balogun is currently on loan with French club Reims and is the top scorer in Ligue 1 after bagging an impressive 14 goals in 21 matches.
“It would’ve been hard for Arsenal to bring in a striker in January and it probably only would have been a loan deal,” Winterburn told Paddy Power as he discussed the Gunners’ forward options. “It’s also difficult as Gabriel Jesus is back training on the grass, so we don’t know how long he’s going to be out for.
“And they also have Folarin Balogun, who is out on loan at the moment and doing tremendously well. He’s another young man with huge potential. My gut feeling is that he will come back next season and Mikel Arteta will look at him throughout pre-season to see if he’s ready to then come into the first-team squad again.
“If you have lots of strikers on the bench, it’s hard to manage their game time and if they’re not getting enough, they might push to leave – so there’s a fine line.
“Balogun is the top scorer in France and he’s such a bright talent. I covered a lot of the under-23 games last season and he was head and shoulders above a lot of other players that people get excited about.
“But he wasn’t ready for the first-team at the time, so he’s gone out on loan and he’s doing tremendously well. That will be the crucial factor in whether he’s ready next season or if he goes out on loan again. He’s got huge potential, but he must keep delivering.”
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Balogun came through the Arsenal academy and was handed his first-team debut in a Europa League clash with Dundalk in October 2020. He made his first Premier League appearance on the opening day of last season as the north Londoners suffered a 2-0 defeat at Brentford but was shipped out to Middlesbrough for the second half of the campaign and scored three goals in 18 Championship appearances.
The 21-year-old has progressed in France this season and has started 18 of Reims’ 22 Ligue 1 matches. And he could try to force his way into Arteta’s thinking in the summer after scoring more league goals than Paris Saint-German trio Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar this season.
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