As the transfer window’s roots begin to bed themselves in deeper and deeper, Arsenal’s transfer window mantra is seemingly, “Sell, sell, sell. Move, move, move.” While many fans may have come into the window with aspirations of seeing one to two relatively major midfield purchases being made to revamp the side, it seems that goal has taken backseat early on to efforts being made to clean house.
Kolasinac is already gone, Saliba is out the door on loan, albeit in very different circumstances than the rest, Sokratis is linked with moves, Calum Chambers has made a few waves, along with Matt Macey and Mustafi.
But sometimes, a sale shuffles into the fold that many aren’t expecting or aren’t hoping for. Arsenal has two sales like that this window; one many were resigned to not happening, one that many will deny is happening until it’s complete.
Ozil and Balogun lie at completely opposite sides of the career spectrum. One who has achieved more in his career than most young athletes would ever dare to dream of for themselves, and one that is feeling ready and determined to get his first team career off the ground and really started. Of course, I am talking about Mesut Ozil and Folarin Balogun.
Both players’ movements and negotiations are being stalked day in and day out by fans, but likely for very different reasons.
Everyone is well aware of the fact that Ozil is sitting on £350k-per-week wages while he remains unregistered. Whether you feel Arsenal are wasting him by not using him or that he is holding Arsenal ransom, it’s universally agreed that that is an exceptional amount of wages not being used to their maximum potential. With both sides of the club-player stalemate resigned to the fact that Arsenal won’t be registering Mesut for the second half of the season, and fans having accepted that Ozil would most likely see the terms of his contract out, the fact that there are negotiations that link Ozil to Fenerbahce feels like an opportunity that’s almost too good to be true.
Conversely, the state of Balogun’s contract negotiations has Arsenal supporters in a place of real worry. Despite having yet to eclipse the 100-minute mark with Arsenal’s first team, Balogun has made a lasting impression with many. It’s not hard to see why.
In his 61 Europa League minutes, Balogun has tallied himself 2 goals and 1 assist. It’s not just the end result, though goals and assists are what life boils down to when you’re a striker, he has demonstrated a large range of skills that seemingly lend themselves to being a quality, well-rounded striker. Good hold up play, ability to link the attack, great movements, and a nose for goal. The praises he receives has plenty of adjectives that overlap with the ideal traits of a Mikel Arteta striker.
It’s factors like these, and a history of letting young stars walk out the door, that makes it uncomfortable when the whole situation is drawing too many parallels to Serge Gnabry or Ismaël Bennacer.
To make matters worse, since Balogun is in the final 6 months of his contract, he has sourced his own deal meaning Arsenal are unable to attach any buy-back or sell-on clauses into the contract, and the fee Arsenal will receive will be incredibly meager. To add insult to injury, Arsenal turned down a £5m offer from Brentford for Balogun in the past. An action that obviously made sense at the time, but now looks like a handsome fee in comparison to what they would receive.
Arteta reassured fans that the club is doing everything they can to navigate this situation toward a contract extension:
“You need three parties to make a deal. For sure, the club wants to make a deal, the manager wants to make a deal, the player wants to stay and I’m not sure about the agent.Mikel Arteta on Balogun’s contract negotiations
“No, I’m not saying he’s stopping [the deal]. I’m saying that we need to find an agreement with him. We are negotiating with an agent, with a player that wants to stay at the club and we need to find an agreement.
“I’m telling you that we are doing everything we can to keep him here and hopefully from the other part they are doing the same and they defend the same interests, which is the players’ interest, which is to stay at the football club and be successful with us.”
The situation looks to almost be a chicken and egg dilemma. Balogun and his representatives want to see Balogun get more playing time, Arsenal seem hesitant offer that time without him committing his future to them. Arsenal also fear the precedent that sets for other youth players and worry it creates a template for forcing their way to first team minutes.
Is it falling apart with Arsenal’s offer or Balogun’s agent – Elite Project Group? Arsenal have a length history with EPG given that Balogun, Nketiah, and Bukayo Saka are all managed by them as well. The Nketiah factor adds another layer of compilation to it all. Nketiah is in the final 18 months of his contract and it’s unclear if Arsenal will choose to cash in on him or extend.
It’s a bit frustrating the way this is going given that the Bukayo Saka conversations ended up well, however, it’s fair to note that Arsenal threw the kitchen sink at him to meet his needs — deservedly so. EPG has earned themselves a reputation for taking some of the negotiations down to the wire so it may not be time to lose hope yet, but it’s fair to be nervous.
From joy to worry. From dreaming of what freed up funds can offer to dreading the possibility of letting another world class talent walk out the door. Whether it’s on Arsenal for not giving him what he wants or on Balogun’s agents for his inflexible mindset and, supporters won’t be satisfied with Folarin leaves. 24 days left and you can bet this one will make sure you feel just about every emotion possible.