Making the step up from schoolboy football to the U18s isn’t an easy task but Folarin Balogun has adapted very well to the challenges that he has faced so far this season.
The talented young striker may be short in stature but he possesses excellent technical ability and also often uses his strength to hold off opposing defenders.
With Eddie Nketiah no longer eligible for the U18s, Kwame Ampadu’s side need a new goalscoring hero and, at present, it appears that Balogun is the player to fill that void.
Having found the net for the U23s against Bournemouth in a pre-season friendly, Balogun has proceeded to score twice in four games for the U18s and has a set himself a target of scoring 20 goals at that level this season, while he also hopes to impress sufficiently to train with the first-team.
Balogun faces competition to command a regular starting berth for the U18s from the higly rated Tyreece John-Jules and it will be an intriguing to see which of the 16-year-olds is used more frequently.
Arsenal have had many prolific scorers at U18 level in recent seasons – the likes of Nketiah, Chuba Akpom, Benik Afobe and Jay Simpson spring to mind – but impressing at this stage and subsequently becoming a first-team regular is a very difficult transition to make.
For now, though, Balogun shouldn’t think too far ahead and should focus on attempting to make as much an impact as he possibly can for the U18s.
Frustratingly, Arsenal aren’t involved in the UEFA Youth League this season, with that competition having given prospects the opportunity to enhance their development.
However the Premier League International Cup, which will see the young Gunners take on Porto, Reading and Bayern Munich in the group stages, is a suitable alternative and Balogun will certainly hope to be involved in that competition in some capacity.
Nketiah has shown that progression can be made from the U18s to the U23s and subsequently to the fringes of the first-team rather quickly indeed. The initial signs are encouraging in suggesting that Balogun could well follow suit.