Why didn’t Arsenal arrange this loan move sooner?
The impact of the January transfer window is yet to be felt. Arsenal could finish in the top four and the decision-making in the month will be heralded as one of the best ever, or points will slip away from them and they will be criticized until the cows come home .
Getting the final 17 game with a winning start at Wolves ensures that any contempt will be temporarily put on hold, just as the victory bells are about to ring.
But there was one aspect of the January transfer window the outcome of which we already knew. He was pre-planned and on the cards for some time before the start of the year, and acted as one of six Arsenal sanctioned departures in the window.
Folarin Balogun’s loan move to Middlesbrough was in sight almost as soon as Chris Wilder was appointed Boro boss in November. His long-standing admiration for the Hale End star had seen unsuccessful offers made to sign him permanently during his time at Sheffield United.
Arsenal made a big mistake by not allowing Folarin Balogun to leave on loan sooner, with the striker settling easily at Middlesbrough
That interest stayed with him and with a sea of Championship clubs lining up to loan out Balogun in January, the Wilder connection helped him seal his loan signing until the end of the campaign.
Enjoying a 60 per cent win rate since replacing Neil Warnock, Wilder led Boro into the Championship play-offs, two points clear of seventh-placed Nottingham Forest, meaning Balogun are in good company.
Balogun had to wait for his first opportunity in the starting lineup since leaving, having made four substitute appearances before making his first league start in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Derby.
In those 96 league minutes he had already provided an assist against Coventry but had his best outing for the club yet with a performance. Wilder said that parts of it were “fabulous”, especially the work rate of his striker and fellow striker Aaron Connolly.
Capping the win with a superb backheel assist for Duncan Watmore, it was a display that also saw Flo record 80% passing accuracy, create two chances and have three shots. It was a solid performance throughout from a player who is settling into life at the Riverside superbly.
So why not earlier? It’s frustrating to think of how much Balogun missed out on being stuck in Under-23 football for half the campaign. Sure, he’s only 20, but he’s already registered two assists in 186 league minutes and worked his way into the starting lineup.
If a loan had been arranged this summer, it would have accelerated everything Boro fans are getting lyrical about now. While another temporary move in the coming season looks likely, even the extra six months he could have had in the second tier would have improved his overall game to open up other loan options.
It’s clearly a lot of crying over the spilled milk, it just happens to be…really good milk.
Best to watch Balogun continue to settle in the northeast. It’s made light work of it so far.