Last year, Arsenal and the teenage attacker of Nigerian descent experienced a reality check in the opening match of the season.
Folarin “Flo” Balogun, a standout with the Arsenal U-21s, had fire in his bag and ambition in his legs. He had a lengthy conversation about his contract renewal at the club and was one of the best finishers in the Arsenal age groups.
According to all appearances, Arsenal strongly values him and persuaded him to pledge his future to the team. While on loan at Middlesbrough, Balogun gained insight into what it means when faces are unfamiliar, but in Reims in Ligue 1, Balogun is better able to comprehend what it means when the language is unfamiliar as well.
“Pretty much every training session there’s something where I’m confused about!
“There’s a few times I’m asking for simple things like, ‘Can you pass me that water’, and he’s looking at me thinking, ‘What are you saying?’
“The lessons are once a week at the minute, for an hour. I tried to do a bit longer but it started to give me a headache.
“It helps me mature a lot because literally you’re just fending for yourself. You have to try to communicate in different ways if you can’t speak the language.
“I think it’s very important to just throw yourself in at the deep end, as I’m trying to do, and hopefully I don’t drown,” he told the Sun.
Despite the challenges, the forward has five league goals in six league starts and is qualified for Nigeria through his parents. This is no little accomplishment.
He claimed that discussions with Mikel Arteta, the manager of Arsenal, were originally hazy but have become clearer since he came to Ligue 1.
“Before I moved, Mikel just wanted me to develop as a man.
“It was kind of like an open answer and it was for me to interpret what he meant.
“He is a very direct person if he wants to get a message to you in the moment, but I also think he thinks long term. I feel like that is his plan.
“By moving abroad, I’m starting to learn what he meant.
“It doesn’t just mean on the pitch but also off the pitch. I think by the time I go back I’ll be in a better place to compete than I was before I left.”
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