Folarin Balogun had a night to remember in an Arsenal shirt.
A few weeks on from his senior debut against Dundalk, the 19-year-old capped off his second Arsenal outing with a first goal for the club just 37 seconds after coming on off the bench. It was just his second touch, too.
Emile Smith Rowe had fed the striker close to the penalty spot, where he controlled the ball, turned, and fired through Andreas Linde to net the Gunners’ third of the night.
Folarin Balogun‘s future in north London has been a hot topic of conversation since the tail end of 2019. Despite scoring a bucket load of goals at youth level, no compromise could be agreed on a new contract with the writing seemingly on the wall for the forward to depart the club.
Brentford had a £5m bid turned down in January, with Sheffield United receiving the same treatment when they offered even less during the summer. Still, despite that, no deal was signed and Balogun’s future remained doubtful.
Getting his opportunity at senior level, Mikel Arteta‘s insistence on keeping hold of the youngster appears to be paying off, with contract talks reopened and the outlook now distinctly more positive for an amicable conclusion.
The general mood is lighter and the goal he scored against Molde appears to signal a turning point. Naturally overjoyed at the strike, the reaction of his teammates demonstrated a unity among the group and a shared belief that Balogun is destined for stardom.
His provider on the night, Smith Rowe, put in a fine cameo display, one that bodes well of the remaining two group fixtures where he’s expected to play a integral role. Seeing the pair link up, fresh out of the academy, as they say, is what football clubs and their supporters dream of.
Elsewhere, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, an outspoken admirer of Balogun, while not posting on social media on Thursday, will no doubt be gleaming from ear to ear for the young prodigy who idolises him getting off the mark. After making his debut Dundalk, Aubameyang spoke glowingly of the striker.
With just one point required from the following two matches to secure top spot, a necessity given the quality of opposition remaining and those who will be dropping down from the Champions League, a full debut for Balogun is expected to follow. We can’t wait.