Mikel Arteta believes Folarin Balogun has ‘got something special’ following the forward’s excellent performances on loan at Reims.
Balogun has shone on loan in France this season and is the leading scorer in Ligue 1 with 14 goals in 18 starts.
The 21-year-old has outscored the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi so far this season and Arteta admits he has been delighted with the academy graduate’s performances.
“So happy for him. He’s a boy with a really clear idea of what he wants to do in his career,” Arteta said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Arsenal’s fixture with Brentford.
“Really ambitious, really committed and he’s really brave. We discussed before whether it was the right place to go [on loan to Reims] and other choices that he had. He was so convinced and I’m really happy for him because he deserves what he’s getting.”
Arteta was asked if he had been surprised with Balogun’s form in France and admits the forward’s numbers are ‘rare’, but says the Gunners have full confidence in the loanee after handing him a new long-term contract in 2021.
My first professional hat trick 🙏🏻. Merci l'équipe pic.twitter.com/hxn4QhSNUw
— Balogun (@balogun) February 2, 2023
“I’m very pleased and obviously when you look at the numbers and what he’s doing it’s just incredible, and very rare to see that. But he’s got something special, that’s why we gave him a long-term contract and have faith in him and give him the long period that he’s having now, because the period he’s having now is different to the one before at Middlesbrough. But that one was very necessary to see the outcome that he’s having now.”
Balogun’s form comes after a difficult loan spell at Middlesbrough last season, in which he started just nine league games and scored three goals in 20 appearances. Arteta believes that experience will have benfitted the forward’s progress this season.
“He had some scars from that period. There were moments when he suffered, moments where he played, moments where he didn’t play, moments where he played but he believed he wasn’t in his best position and throw all the excuses out. It’s a proper experience to add to the next one. That’s what he did, put that behind him but using what worked for him, what didn’t work for him, look in the mirror and go to the next one.”
Arteta was asked on Balogun’s future beyond this season and said the club and player will sit down at the end of the season to discuss his development.
“The plan is that he finishes his period there, assess the situation where he is, where we are, then sit down and plan the next chapter in his developing career.”
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