FOLARIN BALOGUN is Arsenal’s boy from the Big Apple who’s ready for the biggest stage of them all.
Born in New York, striker Balogun moved to England at the age of two and rose through the ranks of the Gunners’ academy.
And, like an actor on Broadway, the 18-year-old wonderkid will expect to be given an audition for Unai Emery’s first-team after starring in the youth ranks.
Balogun is a goalscoring machine, hitting 22 goals in 23 appearances for Arsenal’s young Gunners last season.
That form continued into pre-season with the teen scoring a hat-trick in just SIX MINUTES for Steve Bould’s Under-23s on Wednesday night.
Such a prolific record would, naturally, see some Emirates fans comparing the speedy striker to their first-team superstar Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
And they wouldn’t be the only ones.
“I am the sort of striker that likes to play on the shoulder of the last defender and make runs behind them, similar to the way that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang plays,” Balogun told Arsenal.com.
Aubameyang has given the star his backing, too.
Last season’s joint top-scorer in the Premier League responded to a profile of Balogun by saying: “This young boy is [fire emoji]”.
Emery has a deep chest of young jewels to choose from over the next few years.
Freddie Ljungberg, assistant coach and former head of academy, knows full well the extent of talent in Arsenal’s youth ranks.
He has helped progress and promote, with Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock starring during the first-team’s pre-season this summer.
And Balogun will be next on the conveyor belt of talent being taken from The Hive to The Emirates.
“I do a lot of work in training trying to improve and develop different ways of finishing so that when the chance comes, I’m ready to use whichever option is best,” Balogun said.
“It also helps to keep defenders guessing. As the standard of the teams in which you play rises, you get less and less time and fewer opportunities on the ball.
“This is what drives me to be as efficient as possible in front of goal.”
While Balogun waits for his opportunity at club level, he has a choice to make of his own when it comes to the national team.
He has already represented England at youth level, in last year’s European Championships, but has two other options.
“I was born in New York, so can play for the USA,” he said. “My parents were born in Nigeria and I have been in England since I was two years old, so I can play for both those countries too!
“I have several youth caps playing for England and I enjoy their style of play which is similar to Arsenal’s.
“I will be discussing matters with my parents and will then decide.”
His curtain call awaits.
SOURCE: THE SUN