Arsenal have a most dis-satisfactory record when it comes to seeing players they develop at youth levels blossom into proper first-team stars in the club shirt. Those of us who follow the Bundesliga have repeatedly been made aware of the quality of a certain Serge Gnabry, who is now terrorizing defences across the German top flight. The same, if to a lesser extent so far, can be said of Donyell Malen, currently at PSV Eindhoven and reportedly on the radars of a number of top European clubs. AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer is another good example, as David Ornstein points out in his “Ornstein on Monday” column for The Athletic.
And now it seems another talented youngster, namely 18-year-old striker Folarin Balogun, has decided his further development would be best served away from Arsenal. His goalscoring record for the U-18 side ended at 38 strikes in 41 appearances, and for U-23s he has bagged 12 in 29.
Balogun has been the subject of a £5 million bit from Brentford, which Arsenal rejected. His contract expires in 2021 and Arsenal have been keen to get him pledge his long-term future to the club, but the player declined all offers, feeling his first-team training and matchday opportunities to be very limited. Now, the Gunners are ready to hear suitable offers to let him leave north London as they try to avoid seeing him depart for free next year.
It cannot be said that young players have been neglected at Arsenal in general. The likes of Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah are certainly being given a proper chance at the moment. But a club like Arsenal simply cannot afford too many inexperienced youngsters occupying first-team spots at the same moment, it has to be said.
Be that as it may, no grudges should be held against Balogun for his wish to take the next step in his development, though the club may regret the current circumstances in the future.