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Folarin Balogun hails Alexandre Lacazette influence in Reims move

Folarin Balogun hails Alexandre Lacazette influence in Reims move

Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has hailed the influence of former teammate Alexandre Lacazette in his decision to sign for Ligue 1 side Reims on loan.

The 21-year-old struggled to displace Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season, and his situation did not improve following the latter’s exit for Barcelona.

Eddie Nketiah ended the 2021-22 season as Arsenal’s first-choice striker before signing a new long-term deal, while Gabriel Jesus was brought in to replace Lacazette.

Balogun had already spent a portion of that campaign on loan at Middlesbrough, and he travelled to ply his trade on loan at Reims aiming to fill the boots of Hugo Ekitike, who left for Paris Saint-Germain on loan.

The England Under-21 international has made a stellar start to life in Ligue 1, recording five goals and two assists from six games – only Kylian Mbappe and Neymar (seven each) have netted more goals so far.

Alexandre Lacazette in action for Arsenal on March 6, 2022© Reuters

Balogun is due to return to Arsenal at the end of the season as he seeks to force his way into the first team, and he has since revealed that Lacazette was a driving force in his decision to temporarily leave the club.

“He’s a great player. When he was at Arsenal he would always help me progress and improve, teaching me techniques and giving me advice,” Balogun told Amazon Prime.

“I remember speaking to Lacazette and he kept on telling me : you need to go to Ligue 1, you will do well here. Maybe he should become my agent as well because he has a great knowledge of football!

“I’ve spent my whole career in London so when I came here I knew it was going to be different, I didn’t know the language and I’m still trying to learn.

“But for me it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. This is the reason I’m here and hopefully this decision will be good for me and pay off.”

Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun celebrates scoring in December 2020© Reuters

Balogun was a prolific scorer at Under-18 and Under-21 level for the Gunners and has registered two goals and one assist from 10 senior appearances in red and white, with all of those contributions coming in the 2020-21 Europa League.

Meanwhile, Lacazette departed Arsenal on a free transfer at the end of last season, ending a five-year spell in which he scored 71 goals and provided 36 assists in 206 outings for the North London club.

The 31-year-old has also enjoyed a positive start to the new Ligue 1 season with former Lyon club, scoring three times and setting up one more in five top-flight appearances as the Gones captain.

Balogun was not the only senior Arsenal player to swap the Emirates for Ligue 1 this summer, as left-back Nuno Tavares joined Marseille on a season-long loan.

The Portugal Under-21 international has also made a positive start to his career in France, and he recently admitted that he wanted an option to buy included in his move to the Orange Velodrome.

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