Although he was just the extra man on this occasion, Folarin Balogun made another step forward on Sunday by featuring in Arsenal’s travelling squad.

Folarin Balogun celebrates his hat-trick against Brighton u23s (Photo via David Price)
Folarin Balogun celebrates his hat-trick against Brighton u23s (Photo via David Price)

Folarin Balogun has been the subject of much speculation recently, with the latest reports suggesting he’s finally signed a new contract with Arsenal and is just waiting on the official announcement.

It’s no coincidence that the news was followed by Balogun finally getting back into the senior squad on Thursday, making a substitute appearance against Slavia Prague. He then travelled to the Premier League fixture against Fulham on Sunday.

Though he didn’t make the bench against Fulham, acting as the extra man in case of any late injuries, it was the first time Balogun had been involved with the first team for a Premier League fixture.

I’ve long speculated that the reason for Balogun’s absence from senior action was due to his contract situation. Arsenal likely didn’t want to keep giving minutes to a player who wouldn’t commit. But now he has, and he’s getting those senior chances he wanted.

Obviously, the striker will hope for more. He’ll want to start getting on the pitch a bit more often and to push for starts if possible. But this is progress, and you always have to be patient as an u23 stepping up.

Balogun has scored 14 goals and assisted five more in 26 appearances this season – a goal contribution every 95 minutes across the u21s, the u23s and the first team.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.