Premier League transfers: Here’s why Chelsea should sign Folarin Balogun

With Raheem Sterling bemoaning a lack of clinicality after Chelsea’s 3-1 loss to 10-man West Ham United at the London Stadium at the weekend, a focus has turned back to strengthening the Blues’ options up top in what feels like the final play of a quite remarkable transfer window, and Arsenal's Folarin Balogun has been linked with a shock move to West London. 

It’s a window which has seen the club break the British transfer record to sign Brighton’s Moises Caicedo, as well as adding midfielders Romeo Lavia and Lesley Ugochukwu, defender Axel Disasi, young Angelo Santos from Brazil, and both Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku to operate in forward positions. 

It’s the injury to the latter though, that might be the catalyst for Chelsea’s desire to dip back into the market again – and there are multiple rumours suggesting that Mauricio Pochettino’s side want to add 22-year-old Balogun, who wants to leave the Emirates due to a lack of an obvious pathway, to the ranks at Stamford Bridge. 

Folarin Balogun celebrates scoring in Ligue 1 against Auxerre
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Nkunku suffered an ACL tear on the eve of the season that will rule him out for at least a couple of months, which was a blow in many ways – one of the star signings of the summer was ruled out for an extended period, but Nkunku had also been the glue that had knitted together Chelsea’s attack in pre-season, which had looked far more fluid and potent when the Frenchman was playing.

Nicolas Jackson has impressed in his first few games in a Chelsea shirt, but the man bought from Villarreal is still very much a raw diamond. His intelligence to make runs that stretch defences is clear, and his ability to carry the ball in transition has been sublime, but there remain question marks about the maturity of his finishing ability at this stage in his career. 

So, Chelsea look to have trained their sights on alternative options. Here’s why Folarin Balogun would be a very good fit at Stamford Bridge. 

Why should Chelsea sign Balogun?

A unique opportunity

Balogun is coming off the back of a stellar season in Ligue 1, where he spent 2022/23 on loan with Stade Reims. Balogun hit 21 goals in 37 games for the Rémoise side, making him the fourth highest scorer in the French top flight for the season. 

Why Chelsea should sign balogun
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Normally, a stint like that would put you right back in the frame at your parent club, but Mikel Arteta has both Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah at his disposal, and chances for Balogun would appear to be few and far between. 

Balogun has made it incredibly clear that he wants to be competing for a starting spot at a top club, and after his exploits at Reims, he has no shortage of suitors, meaning that it makes sense for Arsenal to sell him at this point in his career, even if it is a begrudging sale. It just feels like a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ for Balogun at Arsenal. 

William Saliba’s faultless transition from France to the Premier League last season is a testament to the fact that making the jump across the English channel to a team challenging for honours can be achieved successfully, and Arsenal’s loss could well be Chelsea’s gain in this regard. 

The fit Chelsea need

In truth, Balogun also fits this Mauricio Pochettino style of football like a glove. Not only have we seen them be a constant threat in transition, which is the area of the game that Balogun thrived upon in his time in France; but also they create plenty of chances. 

For a player with a high shot volume like Balogun’s – only Messi, Mbappe and Lois Openda took more shots per 90 in Ligue 1 last season – this is a dream scenario. But he’s not just a finisher of chances, in that Balogun created many of his shooting opportunities for himself, carrying the ball into dangerous areas before unleashing a strike. 

Folarun Balogun in full flight for Reims in Ligue 1
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Balogun’s explosivity makes him lethal against a high line, and when pairing that with the playmaking abilities of Enzo Fernandez from deeper positions, Chelsea would be able to create the type of chances upon which he thrives. 

And yet he is not just an off-the-shoulder runner. Tidy in possession, Balogun can drop in deeper to link play and wait for his teammates to catch up with him, and also can dovetail with his wingers to allow variation in attacking patterns.

In many ways, he is the perfect component for this Chelsea lineup for right now, and for the future. Jackson’s ability to play wide, and Nkunku’s tendency to drop deep and link play, mean that there is a future scenario where Pochettino could unleash all three of them at the same time. 

The current model at the Bridge

As with most of Chelsea’s signings since Todd Boehly took over, Balogun would fit a particular profile. The Blues have spent the best part of a year targeting young, high value players who will either form part of the club’s spine for the long term, or have enough sell-on value and longevity to be able to be moved on at a reasonable price point if they don’t cut it at the Bridge. 

It’s a gamble, but it’s a calculated one. By putting players on lower, longer contracts, Boehly is hoping to not fall into a situation which marked the end of the Abramovich years – being unable to sell players on because they were reaching the end of their prime years and on top-value contracts which other clubs couldn’t afford. 

Balogun has hinted before of his desire to make the grade in the Premier League, and whilst it’s felt that he would have preferred for that to have happened at Arsenal, the current situation remains untenable. 

Folarin Balogun playing for Arsenal in their pre-season game against MLS All-Stars in July 2023
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Arsenal will not want to sell to a Premier League rival, but there can be no doubt that the project at Chelsea would be appealing to a player of Balogun’s calibre and potential – a group of hungry young stars being put together for the long-term under a coach of Mauricio Pochettino’s ability. 

The Boehly factor

It’s been spoken about before, but Todd Boehly has a vested interest in growing Chelsea’s presence in the US as the soccer market in the country hits an exponential boom ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

Having lost Christian Pulisic to AC Milan this summer, where the USMNT captain has taken to life like a duck to water, Boehly will have at least one eye on making sure that Chelsea remain in the limelight across the Atlantic Ocean. 

New York-born Balogun made his switch from the English youth setup to the USMNT earlier this year, and starred as the US went on to win the CONCACAF Nations League. He looks like a good bet right now to be the USMNT’s No. 9 for the next decade.

Folarin Balogun celebrates scoring for the USMNT against Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League
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With Tyler Adams’ move to Stamford Bridge falling through, Balogun offers another opportunity for Boehly to have a bona fide US superstar within the ranks at his club, helping to grow their commercial value in the US and making sure that stateside eyeballs remain firmly trained on the Blues. 

Again, this won’t be the telling factor if Chelsea manage to get Balogun through the door, but it’s something worth bearing in mind.