Folarin Balogun may get his wish of a new challenge away from Arsenal after emerging as a top target for a Championship club in transition, according to reports.
Balogun has outlined his potential at youth level for Arsenal and has taken some strides towards the senior side. He scored two goals from six appearances in all competitions – mainly the Europa League – last season.
This season, after signing a long-term contract extension, he has become a Premier League player. But with one less competition to get minutes in due to a lack of European football, he is not seeing as much action as he would like.
At the age of 20, he is ready to step up and play more regularly. It is unlikely he will be able to at the Emirates Stadium, though. Therefore, he could seek a loan move in January.
Balogun has openly admitted he is looking for a solution. He said recently: “I feel like I am ready for a new challenge.
“I feel like I have played youth football for a while. I’ve scored goals at that level and improved at that level drastically compared to now. At the same time I am not sure what that challenge might be. It might be a loan, or if I am needed at Arsenal I am here and the gaffer knows that as well.
“I feel like I am definitely open to a new challenge, wherever it is I will be ready. As a striker and as a young player you need minutes. It is the best way to learn and get consistency.
“Whatever the plan is I’m going to give it 100 per cent and believe it will work out.”
Now, one option has emerged for the young forward. According to reports from The Sun over the weekend, Balogun is a top target for Middlesbrough in the Championship.
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Middlesbrough are about to enter a new era after replacing Neil Warnock with Chris Wilder in the dugout. Wilder previously led Sheffield United to the Premier League and is now in his first job since leaving Bramall Lane.
The Sun have revealed that Balogun is Wilder’s top target for the January transfer market – his first chance to shape his new squad. Although, he will face competition from his former employers in South Yorkshire.
Wilder has made the first moves though by going to watch Balogun in action for the England under-21s last week. He scored against Czech Republic on Thursday.
Clubs queue up for Balogun after advice
Prior to that performance, England under-21s boss Lee Carsley said Balogun had outgrown youth football, planting the idea of a transfer in his mind.
“You need testing,” said Carsley. “Watching him in the under-23s for Arsenal, it’s probably a little bit too easy for him and he’s passed that level.
“I imagine he wants to play for Arsenal and pushing for a position. But it’s such a big club with a lot of competition.”
Therefore, a temporary spell in the second tier may do Balogun some good. But The Sun warned that there will be a “sizeable queue” of clubs looking at him.
Arsenal, for their part, are yet to make a decision on the New York-born starlet.
Balogun is currently competing with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah for a place up front. However, a couple of those players have also been linked with exits.
It seems the striker position will be one Arsenal have to think carefully about in January, potentially affecting their plans.