Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has reached another major milestone during his prolific loan stint as he continues to remind Mikel Arteta of what he could potentially offer the Premier League leaders in future.
The 21-year-old is still going from strength to strength over in France, where he has shone all season for Reims under the tutelage of 30-year-old English coach Will Still.
Balogun has well and truly hit the goal trail in Ligue 1, netting his 18th of the season across all competitions in a losing effort against Marseille on Sunday evening.
The Gunners academy graduate swept home confidently from inside the box to finish off an incisive counter-attack and give mid-table Reims an early lead over Igor Tudor’s title-chasers at the Stade Auguste-Delaun, one they would quickly relinquish after a winning brace from former Arsenal favourite Alexis Sanchez.
Per Stats Foot, Balogun’s 17th league goal this term aged 21 years and 259 days makes him the youngest player to achieve that feat in Ligue 1 since all the way back in 1956, when future Reims star Hassan Akesbi of Morocco did it with Nimes.
He has also made a habit of scoring in big games, also notching the winner against Monaco last weekend and claiming a last-gasp share of the spoils against leaders Paris Saint-Germain last month with a goal that was sandwiched between a brace against Rennes and hat-trick to down Lorient.
Balogun’s exploits will not be going unnoticed back at Arsenal, where he may well have been playing a part in their title push over recent weeks had he remained at the club in the summer with January signing Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Martinelli picking up the central-forward slack during the respective absences of Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah.
The academy graduate had looked set to leave the Emirates with his contract due to expire at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, but he later put pen to paper on a new four-year deal. He has made two Premier League outings for Arsenal so far, has scored seven times in 13 appearances for England at Under-21 level and spent the second half of last season on loan in the Championship with Middlesbrough.
AC Milan, Villarreal and Marseille are among the clubs now said to be keen on Balogun, with Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot having admitted last month that it would be “impossible” for his club to complete a permanent transfer for a player who sits behind only PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe and Lille’s Jonathan David in the Ligue 1 scoring charts and level with the likes of former Arsenal captain Alexandre Lacazette at Lyon and Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder.
Arteta recently heaped praise upon Balogun and said Arsenal would sit down and plan his future at the end of the season, while the player himself has revealed his frustration at a lack of chances during pre-season but reiterated his commitment to making a first-team impact in north London.