Kevin Betsy says Folarin Balogun can be a top-class striker in the future, and the striker is showing excellent professionalism in his current situation.
On Wednesday night, the Arsenal u21s progressed to the second knockout round of the EFL Trophy for the first time since their first appearance in the competition in 2018/19.
Kevin Betsy’s side join Chelsea as the only u21 sides still in the competition at the last-16 stage. The other 14 youth sides have already been knocked out, which shows just how difficult it is to progress against senior opposition.
In Arsenal’s case, they needed a two-goal comeback and a penalty shootout to get past Ipswich Town. Not for the first time, Folarin Balogun was behind the comeback.
Balogun has scored a number of vital goals lately. He got an equaliser in the three-goal injury-time comeback against Leicester City, the winner in the 3-2 victory over Blackburn Rovers, and a hat-trick despite defeat to Derby County.
He should have had four in that Derby match, with one of his goals incorrectly chalked off for offside.
Regardless, he bounced back to score an equaliser against Ipswich Town to keep Arsenal in the EFL Trophy, before scoring in the shootout as well.
Speaking after that game, Betsy told The Athletic that Balogun is staying professional. He has had to be patient with the academy, waiting for senior chances.
“He (Balogun) could easily just train and be ready when called upon (by the first team) but he wants to get match minutes, match sharpness and he’s doing that with us,” Betsy said.
“(He’s) showing an example to our young ones. When they’re thinking they want to be in the first team and at that level, they look at him and see, that’s the level — whatever position.
“His professionalism off the pitch is second to none and he’s a top character.”
The question everyone is asking now is whether Balogun should be going on loan in the January transfer window.
“That’s a decision that comes from the club,” Betsy said.
“Every player’s journey is different whether it’s to stay at the club and develop with the under-23s and then push for the first team or go on loan like Emile (Smith Rowe, who was sent out on January loans to RB Leipzig and Huddersfield Town) did.
“His development is there for all to see. He’s scoring goals, making goals, being a threat. Today he’s playing against senior players and deals with it.
“There’s no doubt in my mind about Flo’s level and competency to be a top-class striker in the future and we’re all behind him and supporting him to try to get better.”