Folarin Balogun has the chance to claim his spot in Mikel Arteta’s side next season and become a fan favourite at the Emirates.
After Middlesbrough’s FA Cup third-round heroics against Manchester United at Old Trafford, they have now been drawn against the Gunners’ north London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.
Balogun started for Boro in their victory over the Red Devils, and it will be likely that he’ll start against Tottenham in the fourth round.
With Arsenal’s current striker crisis, it bodes a great chance for the youngster to prove that he is ready for the step up to the Premier League next season.
The 21-year-old started Arsenal’s opening Premier League match of the season in the 2-0 defeat to Brentford but failed to start another first-team game since then, which saw him make the switch to Middlesborough.
Balogun is good enough for first-team football, but Arteta doesn’t seem to think he is capable for Arsenal’s level just yet.
The striker testing himself at first-team level is an idea that is supported by England under 21 boss Lee Carsley, as he said: “Watching him in the U23’s for Arsenal, it’s probably a little bit too easy for him and he’s passed that level.”
Balogun played so well in the under 23 competitions that before the signing of his new Arsenal deal in the summer, there were a host of top clubs around Europe including RB Leipzig that signalled interest in securing his services, despite not making a first-team appearance.
Now at Middlesbrough until the end of the season, he has a great chance to replicate his qualities at first-team level, and the FA Cup fixtures are giving him an excellent platform to show his abilities against Premier League opposition.
Both Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette’s contracts are set to expire at the end of the season, which will leave Arsenal with just one recognised striker in Balogun due to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s January move to Barcelona.
To prevent Arteta from signing two strikers in the summer which would leave Balogun further down in the pecking order, an excellent display against Tottenham could alter Arteta’s transfer plans.
A solid performance could also win over the hearts of Arsenal fans, who would love nothing more than to see an academy graduate knocking out their most fierce rivals.
Make sure you have subscribed to The Arsenal Way and the Fan Brands team along with plenty of your football.london favourites will be producing daily Arsenal content for you to enjoy including match reactions, podcasts, football fun and interviews.