In the last few months, Eddie Nketiah has shown that he is more than capable to be understudy to Gabriel Jesus.
With 9 goals this season, he is currently our top scorer.
The lad always had natural goal scoring talent, but in the last 18 months he has developed his game dramatically. He has also improved physically.
Nketiah has put the time in on the training ground and in the gym to become a better player, pushing himself and his body as he strived to make it at The Arsenal. And we should all commend that.
Meanwhile, over in France, another Arsenal striker is ripping up the league.
Leading the Ligue 1 scoring charts is Folarin Balogun (at the time of writing). The Arsenal youngster is on loan at Reims, recently scoring a hat trick agains FC Lorient.
Back in December, we wrote how Mikel Arteta had a double striker dilema. That in Balogun and Nketiah we had two players chomping at the bit to be long term 2nd choice to Jesus, but there probably was not space for both.
The form of Balogun and Nketiah since the return of the World Cup has only intensified the debate. But is there still a discussion to be had?
We are likely to qualify for the Champions League next season. And with that we need a bigger, deeper squad. Is there the space to accomodate Jesus, Nketiah and Balogun?
I am not sure.
Like almost every team in the Premier League, we play one up top. That means game time is limited for the 3rd striker. We have recently seen Newcastle loan out Chris Wood to Nottingham Forest as he could not get a sniff behind Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak.
But Newcastle do not have European football, so there are less games to go around. So what about those teams that are in Europe? Who are their strikers?
Manchester City: Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez
Manchester United: Wout Weghorst, Anthony Martial
Tottenham: Harry Kane, Richarlison
Liverpool: Darwin Núñez, Roberto Firmino
Chelsea: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Armando Broja
Each team has two “proper” strikers. And this is replicated throughout most of Europe:
Barcelona: Robert Lewandowski
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema, Mariano
Bayern Munich: Thomas Muller, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
Napoli: Victor Osimhen, Giovanni Simeone
AC Milan: Olivier Giroud, Divock Origi
The above highlights how every team that plays 1 up top only have 2 front line strikers. The only sides with more are the likes of PSG and Juventus who both play 2 up top.
When I talk about front line strikers, I am talking about lads that are primarly forwards. Not those that “can play up top”. I am also talking about central strikers, not wide forwards or those that play in behind the striker or “false 9”.
In Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah, we have 2 front line forwards.
Now many of you will be saying “what about Son?” or “what about Havertz?” or “what about Jota?”. The answer is simple.
They are players who are primarly in the squad to play a different role – either a winger, a wide forward, a 10 and so on. They are not front line strikers. And Arsenal have players that already play a similar role.
Both Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard have played up top in the Premier League. They are our de facto 3rd and 4th choice strikers, in the same way Son and Jota are Tottenham and Liverpool’s 3rd choice striking options. How Gakpo will be Liverpool’s 4th choice.
If both Jesus and Nketiah were out injured, we would see either Trossard or Martinelli down the middle with the other playing out wide.
So we have the 2 front line lads, and they are backed up by wideman who have played centrally in their career. Almost every team has a similar set up.
This then takes us back to the “Balogun or Nketiah” debate. If we only need 2 front men, we do not need Balogun and Nketiah. And for me it is “better the devil you know”.
Balogun has done bits in France. He has outscored Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi. It is easy to write the headlines.
But to put this into perspective, Alexandre Lacazette is 2nd in the Ligue 1 scoring charts. Balogun has one more goal than him.
Lacazette has 13 league goals this season. He got 4 in the Premier League last.
In his 5-years with Arsenal, he only scored more than 13 Premier League goals once – 14 in 2017/18. Does this show the gulf in class between England and France?
A player who looked off the pace in England is back scoring for fun again in France. And this brings some perspective as to what Balogun is doing.
Even Alexis Sanchez is scoring in Ligue 1.
The Chilean has 7 league goals this season. That is his highest league return since the 2017/18 season, when he got 7 for Arsenal before scoring 2 for Manchester United in the second half of the season.
One aspect of Nketiah’s game he has dramatically improved in the last 18 months is his work rate and build up play. This is shown in his improved 83.1% pass completion. Balogun’s is down at just 67.8%.
Nketiah is playing at a higher level than Balogun, and showing he has more to his game. Right now Flo is just a goal scorer.
So if we could only keep one in the summer, Nketiah would surely get the nod?
Balogun would also potentially raise a higher transfer fee.
He is younger and on lower wages than Nketiah. A team would not have to factor in huge wages when signing him.
Anyone that signed Nketiah would have to match his £115,000 salary. That would push down his transfer fee. Balogun meanwhile reportedly earns just £32,000 per week.
A side could double Balogun’s wages, offer him a 5-year deal, and the total paid would be over £13m less than signing Nketiah to his current wages onto a 5 year deal. Some of that saving would likely find its way into Arsenal’s coffers.
At the moment, Transfrmarkt value Nketiah at €18m and Balogun at €14m. So you can see how a club saving £13m on wages could boost Balogun’s fee beyond what we would get for Nketiah.
What could Arsenal realistically get for Balogun? That is the question.
I am seeing some say “£40m”. Considering what Chelsea have spent on players with a similar level of experience, it could reach that high.
He is the French top scorer, and if he finishes high in their charts his value will sore.
In Europe’s top 5 leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France), the only men to outscore him are Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, Victor Osimhen and Robert Lewandowski.
If the first 3 of those were available for transfer this summer, we would be talking about fees in excess of £100m.
Two other players that make a good comparison are Ivan Toney and Christopher Nkunku.
Chelsea have reportedly paid £62m for Nkunku, whilst you could see the likes of Manchester United pay £50m for Toney (if his betting charges go away).
If Toney left Brentford, then someone like Balogun would become a target. I could also see him joining the likes of West Ham, Brighton, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Everton, Leicester City and more (depending on who stays up).
All these sides are crying out for a goal scorer. Balgoun is young and Homegrown, and with what he has done in France, will be top of many of those club transfer lists. All of them will not hestitate in paying £40m.
That £40m could then be put towards further strengthening our squad.
The right hand side behind Saka still lacks depth. We shold be looking to repeat what we did on the left hand side and buy someone to cover and compete with Saka. And that player could potentially become a further option down the middle.
In and around the £40m mark (or less), we are talking about Yeremy Pino, Nico Williams, Marco Asensio, Bryan Mbeumo and many more.
We would be strengthening our squad, whilst breaking even on transfers, using Hale End products to finance more suitable players.
Every goal Balogun scores just increasing what we sell him for in the summer.
20m tops. But keep him another season
Jesus Eddie and florin can all play of the wing aswell.
Would agree with this on one condition … that we sold him on a FIRST REFUSAL basis if the club he went to were to sell him … and even then I would be unhappy about him leaving
Very unwise to sell Balogun this summer. It’s true that Jesus and Nketiah are 2 frontmen but they are also capable of playing anywhere in the front three. That’s Arteta’s staple attackers. Maybe having Jesus, Martinelli, Saka, Nketiah, Trossard, Marquinhos and Balogun fighting for the front 3 in all fronts next season is not bad idea. Just look at Liverpool and Man Utd. How much are they struggling with forward injuries right now.