Mikel Arteta has a transfer dilemma on his hands this summer as Folarin Balogun continues to excel in France’s top division. Never mind Kylian Mbappe, Neymar or even former teammate Alexandre Lacazette, it’s Balogun who tops the goalscoring charts in Ligue 1 with 15 goals this season for Reims. Balogun has really come into his own with clever movement, clinical finishing and smart hold-up play seeing him become a complete striker and with confidence on his side, who knows how many goals he will end up with come this season.
The recent form of Balogun poses a unique transfer dilemma for Mikel Arteta who will have the decision whether to keep the in-form striker or sell him while his stock is high. This will be quite an important decision for Arteta as Champions League football beckons next season so with that being said, it’s time to explore Arteta’s options in the summer.
Mikel Arteta’s Summer Transfer Dilemma: Keep
The main option for Mikel Arteta would be to keep the in-form striker and see him build a relationship with Eddie Nketiah at the heart of Arsenal’s attack. The whole point of Balogun’s loan was to help him build overall confidence to help him thrive in his overall play. The 21 year-old has done exactly that and he has done so in a team that like to press and play attacking football, a philosophy similar to Arteta’s.
The runs that Balogun makes and the Englishman’s overall improvement in build-up play has seen him improve attacking qualities that has helped him build a similar portfolio to the one Gabriel Jesus has at Arsenal. Furthermore Balogun has established himself against Champions League quality in Ligue 1 this season and will be used to facing high quality opposition when Arsenal compete in Europe’s elite competition next season.
Tactically it would be a big advantage to keep Balogun as it would also provide Mikel Arteta with the option of playing with two players up front with Balogun and Nketiah already building a partnership up front in previous seasons. This would allow Arteta to expand his shape tactically and move Oleksandr Zinchenko into midfield creating a three at the back. As a result this would create a more dynamic shape for Arteta to work with especially against a defensive block, where it is necessary to stretch out the opposition as much as possible.
There is also the perspective that Mikel Arteta is one of the best developmental coaches in world football with the Spaniard already improving Eddie Nketiah’s game this season. This could mean Arteta could continue to improve Balogun’s game so much that they wouldn’t need to invest in an 80-90 million pound centre forward. This would save Arsenal money which they can spend in other areas such as a defensive midfielder as well as a full-back.
Mikel Arteta’s Summer Transfer Dilemma: Sell
There is also the other side of the argument which is Mikel Arteta should sell the striker on a permanent basis while Balogun’s stock is high. Football is full of twists and turns with there being no guarantees whether Balogun can repeat this form in the future. The reason for Balogun’s form could be down to the style of French football with fellow former team-mates Matteo Guendouzi and Nuno Tavares also benefitting from the style of football in France while struggling to adapt to English football.
This is something that Arteta will need to analyse when making a decision like this with Balogun’s current form warranting him to leave for at least 50-60 million in today’s market. There is also many teams around Europe who will be looking to invest in a world-class centre-forward and if Balogun can have guarantees of playing regular football for a top-end European team then why wouldn’t he take that opportunity.
There is no doubting that the competition as Arsenal’s main striker is strong and if Balogun isn’t considered to be the player to lead the Gunners’ charge in the Champions League next season then getting the money and investing into a top quality player that will fit Arteta’s project better would be beneficial for both sides.
Mikel Arteta’s Summer Transfer Dilemma: Verdict
The temptation would be strong for Arteta and it’s owners to sell given his contract runs out in 2025 with there being a nice balance between selling for a strong price but also not putting other clubs off signing him given his price tag.
However there aren’t a lot of options for Arteta to explore at the moment from other teams that would be capable of replacing Balogun at the club. One option could be Victor Osimhen from Napoli but the Italian side have proven themselves to be a hard team to negotiate with and if there’s one thing that we learned from Edu in the summer it’s that Arsenal will not pay more than necessary to get the players they need to strengthen the squad.
Ultimately this summer will prove a stern test of Arteta and Edu’s identity and philosophy as they look to play a risky game of stick or twist. However one thing is guaranteed and that’s Balogun isn’t making Mikel Arteta’s decision any easier as he continues to fire in the goals and cause a headache for not only Arsenal but for some of Europe’s biggest teams.
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