What to Do With our Beast of a CF in Waiting?

Back in the long long distant past, well in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Arsenal had two young strikers developing from the academy, one was a certain Kevin Campbell, a big, physical and quite rapid centre-forward who went on to play a pivitol role in the ‘almost’ Invincibles of 1990/91. Campbell looked destined to succeed Alan Smith and to be Arsenal’s powerful spearhead throughout the decade.

Just behind Super Kev was a young, lithe, shy looking young man from Nottingham, Andy Cole, and he was ripping up the South-East Counties league and the Football Combination. Cole was a different type of striker, smaller than Campbell but quicker and more like the guy George Graham eventually signed in 1991 and who went on to become the clubs record goalscorer.

The arrival of Ian Wright changed the direction of both Campbell and Cole as well as Arsenal and Campbell became more of a support striker, often out wide whilst Cole went on loan to both Fulham (13 apps 3 gls) and then Bristol City (12 apps 8gls). There was a clear improvement in Andy Cole’s performances but the immovable object of Ian Wright stood in his way. George Graham had Wright, Smith, Paul Merson, Campbell and Anders Limpar and there was no where for Cole to go and so Graham sold him, to Bristol City for £500,000, Ian Wright had cost £2.5m so it was a decent fee.

Andy Cole went onto play for Newcastle United where he scored 55 goals in only 70 appearances and then Man United where he would win the European Cup/Champions League and lot of other honours. Arsenal won after he left the League Cup, the FACup and the European Cup Winners Cup of which Kevin Campbell and Ian Wright played a significant part.

Campbell was a workhorse and a decent servant for Arsenal but he never hit the heights we’d expected of him back in 1990 and he was eventually sold in 1995 to Nottingham Forest for the same fee Arsenal had paid for Ian Wright, £2.5m. Campbell had a decent career post-Arsenal finishing with 148 goals in 499 appearances.

Andy Cole also drifted around the lesser clubs on leaving Old Trafford in 2001 and finished with 229 goals from 509 appearances.

Some fans and other commenters criticised Graham for not giving Cole a chance but I’m not sure what they expected Graham to do, not sign Ian Wright perhaps?

The parallels with today are very similar, Arteta has Jesus, Trossard, Martinelli, Saka and Nketiah filling the attack roles and he has the raw potential of Flo Balogun, it’s like 1992 all over again, stick or twist?

The agent of Saka and Nketiah is also the agent of Balogun, Arsenal usually come to an amicable arrangement with this agency but it’s clear to me that the agent knows that there’s unlikely to be the opportunities for Flo at Arsenal as it stands and he’s also looking out for Eddie as well. Flo is blasting it in Ligue Un and whilst it is Ligue Un and a certain Nicholas Pepe was blasting it in Ligue Un a few years ago it’s still a top league (or ligue) despite a certain snobbery that is prevalent in some football circles these days, so credit where credit is due.

Flo probably needs to leave so he can spread his wings, he isn’t replacing Martinelli, Saka or Jesus anytime soon and will probably be behind Trossard and alongside Eddie and his agent will know this.

Of course if he smashes it during the pre-season this summer then that might cause Arteta to hesitate and think again, but would Flo be prepared to share the spotlight with Jesus and would Jesus be happy with that or would Trossard be happy as a permanent sub, stick or twist?

I’d like to see Arteta giving Flo the summer and see where he stands, no doubt there are constant scouting reports on Balogun going into Arteta’s office on a weekly basis probably some videos as well so he’s going to know what Flo has to offer in the here and now. Arsenal will have until August 31st to decide and they could even push it until January 31st but it’ll depend on whose leaving, whose arriving and the spaces available in the 25 man squad and how Flo feels.

And of course the transfer fees offered for him?

By Allezkev

49 thoughts on “What to Do With our Beast of a CF in Waiting?

  • Nice one Kev. It’s a happy conundrum to be in but it would be unwise to sell Balogun without testing how he would in Arsenal setup and what can he give. It’s also interesting to see what Arteta can turn him into.

  • Great post, Kev. I like the link between past and present and you emphasise well the difficulty of making the right decision with such young talents.

  • From what I have seen of the Gun, he looks like the real deal to me,and a great fit for Arsenal. I think he is an upgrade to Eddie and would offer a great plan B.

  • Sorry to bring the bad news.
    Balogun will be sold.
    He does not have the right attitude that it would take to work his way into playing opportunities for Arteta.

    Did you notice how he handled the last international break? Flirting with different national teams. He does not fit with our new ethos.
    Now he and his representatives putting out the word to Ornstein that he doesn’t want to be a backup, and likely not extending.
    I don’t get a good feeling about him anyway. His value will never be higher than now with just 2 years left on his deal.

    Ciao, Flo.

  • Thanks fellas, I guess it’s up to Flo, if he’s dead set on leaving then there’s not a lot that can be done, but maybe Mikel can persuade him if he truly thinks he can do a job and yes TA I reckon that he would be an upgrade on Eddie and maybe why his agent is working to benefit them both?

  • Kev, that’s a very intriguing post. Recognizing a talented kid, who will make it into the first team and be a regular, is not a perfect science; the case of Andy Cole and Kevin Campbell is a good example of this. Turned out that Andy Cole had a more illustrious career, one would say.

    Watching the likes of Chuba Akpom, Chuks Aneke and even Tyreece John-Jules, I had high hopes for them all as future Arsenal stars but that didn’t come to be. Now, I do realize a bit of patience and trust can see such players come into their own (as with Joe Willock and Nketiah). It is a delicate balance, deciding what kid will make the cut and integrating such a kid into the first team. In the case of Folarin Balogun, he is showing he can cut it (albeit, in the Ligue 1) and getting Mikel’s attention. I think Mikel likes him too.

    We have a good problem here and it is up to the club to decide, especially as we shall be seeking bigger fish to fry next season, playing top flight football in the continent and domestically. The tricky part for me is your disclosure that the trio have the same Agent who will want to do right by his players. I posit that it is going to be a toss up between Nketiah and Flo and their pre-season performance may be the decider for Arteta.

  • Am I the only person who can’t post here?
    I compose beautiful comments, giant nuggets of wisdom and prose, just to see most of them disappear (maybe half the time).

    Such inspirational writing is not so easy to recreate.

  • I rarely lose a post JYNC but 75% of mine go into hiding only to appear a little later.

    It can be very frustrating.

  • Hello, people! 🙂

    Nice take on Flo, Kev.

    I recall of stories about Andy Cole that put a different light on his departure from Arsenal. For obvious reasons I won’t go any further.

    Whilst his goal-scoring skills were superb at the time (he once hit 34 league goals in just 40 games!), there was something about his personality that held him down. He never got a chance to shine for England either – England had so many No.9s at the time. He wasn’t even considered as an instant success at Man United either. There was a joke in a TV show about forbidden commercials regarding Ferguson paying big money to get Cole from Newcastle: “It seems Duchess Sara is not only Fergie who likes to waste money!” Indeed, Man United failed to win the league both in 1994-95 and 1997-98 when there was no Cantona to lead them and the burden of scoring vital goals was on Cole’s back. Cole’s misery in front of the goal v West Ham on the last day of 1994-95 was mentioned a lot – Man U got just one point from that game with Cole being frustrated repeatedly by Ludek Miklosko so Blackburn won the league instead by a single point (89-88).

    As for Balogun, I have to admit the jury is still out. He seems to have better technical skills than Nketiah but goals in Ligue 1, as someone has already stated, should be taken with a grain of salt – take a look at Lacazette’s record this season or Pepe’s back in 2018-19. Goalkeepers in Ligue 1 are mostly crap and some of Balogun’s goals were a direct consequence of that bug of theirs.

  • Well, if you get to read this..
    Great post Kev but I have my own view on Balogun.

    I get the impression he’s definitely going.
    I don’t think he has the attitude Arteta wants. Hard work, patience, humility to earn chances.
    The way he behaved about the national teams recently was not a good sign. What we just learned from Ornstein proves me right.
    He’ll never be worth more than right now, and likely would lose value rapidly if we don’t strike while the iron is hot. We need to be decisive.

  • Fine post, Kev, on Balogun and the historical comparison.
    I doubt however that it will turn out as the majority of the supporters demand. (Which is not necessary a bad thing.)

    Some of you know me enough, that I am a huge fan and advocate of proper playing minutes/opportunities, thus in (recurring and boring) favor of a small to moderate squad. Whether this is only my psychosis or not only time will tell, but I am quite positive that 2 things will not happen this summer:
    – we are not going to buy either a world class striker (Osimhen, Vlahovic, Nkunku, Kolo Muani, David), nor a ‘top shelf’ forward (Toney, Félix, Watkins, Abraham) to provide better cover to Jesus
    – and we are not going to end the summer transfer window with 3 strikers in the team.
    For the sake of simplification I will consider only Jesus and Nketiah as strikers. Trossard is much more experienced and much more efficient on the left wing, and even though Eddie is no longer a poacher, his attacking presence only yields returns as a center forward. Jesus has more experience on the wing (than Nketiah), but he is primarily a striker: that’s how Arteta uses him throughout the season, and that’s where he has future in the Brazilian national team as well.

    If we accept the premises above – and if we rule out the opportunity that Jesus will be sold to Barcelona / Real Madrid to replace the aging Benzema and Lewandowski – then only 2 scenario remains.
    First and foremost Balogun will be sold. He is unlikely to sign a new contract without proper guarantees, and now he has a high status and demand. He will turn 22 in the summer, so that could be a fruitful investment for an ambitious team that cannot afford an established, top shelf striker. If the story wasn’t about Arsenal I could dream about a transfer fee of 45-50M, but taking our heritage and traditions into consideration (despite the high number of clubs interested in Flo) I think we will settle for price in the rage of 25-35M.

    Second – which is not too likely, but that’s what I would pursue – Nketiah will go on loan, and Balogun stays to become the backup striker in the PL plus some high profile CL games, and our main/lead forward in all other competitions. I think Nketiah could stay in the Premier League, and could join Crystal Palace, Leeds or Everton for a year – if they remain in the PL. I don’t doubt that Balogun would prefer a star(ting) role than the backup, but with the cup games and European competition he is looking at the same ballpark of minutes. (He played 2400 minutes this season, while Eddie is at 1800, which could have been even more without his current injury.) And it could be a stable solution in the medium run: Jesus will stay Arsenal’s main threat for the next 5-6 years, while Nketiah and Balogun would rotate on a yearly basis who will stay and be Arsenal’s #2 striker and who will go out and prove himself on loan.

    Maybe at some point Nketiah and Balogun could be Arsenal’s attacking duo. And furthermore the answer to the ‘who will start today?’ question will not be decided on seniority, salary or time left from the contract, but thorough analysis of the opponent, as Eddie and Flo indeed possess different set of attacking skills. But I’m surely dreaming now.

  • In an Arteta team you will not survive easily if you are not versatile. Up front we need six players and they should all be able to play in two positions at least:
    Jesus, Central and on left wing. Saka both wings (and almost anywhere else).
    The AlbaTross: everywhere.
    Martinelli: left wing and probably CF.
    Eddie: CF, okayish on the wing.
    Nelsoni: right wing, okayish on the left wing.

    If Balogun can play on the wing as well then I have no doubt he will be added to the attack this summer. If not, I still think he will replace either Eddie or Reiss.

  • PB opined:

    “And furthermore the answer to the ‘who will start today?’ question will not be decided on seniority, salary or time left from the contract, but thorough analysis of the opponent, as Eddie and Flo indeed possess different set of attacking skills. But I’m surely dreaming now”

    Pure prejudice and Arteta’s choices have been very balanced and fair. The best available players played and all have had chances to impress this season. He is no Ted Lasso, but then who is?! 🤩

    It is hard to admit it, PB, but Arteta is just soooo much better at managing football clubs than you and me will ever be. Learn to love him. 😍😍

  • The French league is indeed much easier for attackers that need space to run into, but Balogun has a good first touch, is comfortable with the ball in tight spaces and links up well. So I think he’ll do well in the PL too.

  • TA, I appreciate that you are not giving up on saving my soul. 🙂
    And I have no doubt that you honestly believe what you write. But that doesn’t make them true.

    We all know that Leno and Ramsdale had different skill sets. It could/would be possible to adjust the line-up according to the opponent. Did it happen any time? Not once. Same applies to EVERYBODY. No matter if you consider ESR as AM, LW or B2B, he never started (a PL or a priority cup game) if Odegaard, Martinelli or Xhaka was available. Again everybody knows that White is not superior to Tomi in every aspect of the game, but some indeed. Yet, Tomiyasu has NEVER started on Ben’s expense. Same applies to Zinchenko vs. Tierney: when Oleks was fit he always started (in the PL and in the 2 last EL games). This will likely lead us to lose Kieran, but not many will complain about it, even though he was one of the best LB in the league in the past 2 seasons.

    Arteta is really very strong in many aspects of being the manager of a top club; no doubt about that. But not all. Even though he is indeed better at managing Arsenal than both of us combined. However I will not be apologetic for having a complex or balanced view on Mikel – or anybody else – per se. I don’t mind if you or others worship him as a savior, and will try too minimize to provoke you, but sometimes it will be inevitable. Because besides the numerous (admitted and acknowledged) advantages of Arteta
    – he is weak at rotation
    – he is piss poor at having players competing for the starting spot (his choices are as far as possible from being balanced or fair, you just announce this as a thesis)
    – and he is downright terrible when it comes to academy player integration.

    You may think that I enjoy writing those. And if you do, you are obviously right. But I’m not enjoying this for pissing anybody off. But because it is true. There are infinite evidence to support it, whoever is interested is probably already aware of them.

  • There is the potential of winning the league so, frankly, I won’t forgive Arteta if he tried too many experiments; and I am certain many fans won’t too. The club is building and we have to accept we do not yet have and cannot put out two different teams of 11 players of near equal strength and potency like what the likes City, Chelsea and even ManU can. Only at full back(s), left and right wings can we boast of near like replacements for our first teamers, to be fair. Tomiyasu (the one we knew when he arrived) hasn’t been fit this season (again), or it will be Ben White on the bench. If Tomi can get back to his marauding best, he should get that shirt back.

    We have to have our best 11 starting games, for now. I think in subsequent seasons, when the team has that league Trophy monkey off its back, we shall see a bit more rotation as confidence would be high.

    I would cut Arteta some slack, for this season.

  • While I agree with both TA and PB on Artetas team management I am more confident than the last 3 seasons that he will get it right. Regarding Rams/Leno I guess it’s proven beyond doubt that he made the right decision. Ramsdale has been a spectacular success. I always felt that Leno didn’t come.enough for high balls and crosses. Ramsdale has been a revelation not just this season but past season as well. A GK who got relegated twice but now a top English GK is nothing but spectacular. I love him and have never bothered about his occasional errors as they are footballing ones and usually happens. As a player who kept wickets for 18 years spanning school, college, club and corporate cricket I have a soft sport for GK. GKs are always crucified for any mistakes but largely gets ignored otherwise just like a wicket keeper.
    Regarding Ben/Tomi iam sure Arteta would have loved a fit Tomi to be able to rotate with Ben. You get the feeling that Ben has been over played due to the absence of Tomi right after World Cup.
    Where I do agree with PB to an extent is Artetas treatment of Academy players. Even here we have been a phenomenal success for the past 3 years but you do get a lingering feeling that it could have been more. ESR is a player we all love but I get why Arteta is skepticle about playing him more. I am sure he has got adequate information from the Docs about this kid. We all just love him to be successful and hence the impatience. Nelson is another one that i fail to understand. Again iam sure Arteta may have good reasons. But I would love to see him given few more chances against all oppositions other tah may be City in the remaining games. After his herioics against Bournemouth he seems to have vanished. The one that I am stil convinced we missed our is Willock. He was our own and I would have loved to see him in our settled team and midfield. He could have been a good competition to Xhaka and an effective sub to Ode as well. Well that’s my opinion on Willock I absolutely love him and I think we missed integrating him.
    All said and done we are top of the league heading towards 85-90 points range with a GD in excess of 40 and going head to head with a juggernaut like City backed by a state is remarkable. So I am in full support of Arteta and his ceiling like any of our younger players is unimaginable. Just want him to win the league for his and you g players sake. It would catapult them to much higher plane from here on.

  • Your areas of critic have little merit and are almost irrelevant. Just your hobby horses and Arteta could easily counter them. It’s like telling the most beautiful woman that she should change her shoes more often and giving all her dresses a chance. She would walk and so would Arteta if you were his manager.

    Ooooh Arteta We Love You. 😍😍😍

  • Madhu, I also liked Joe a lot, but I still think that, just like Alex Iwobi, he made the right call. Good but not great. Re ESR I think there are major fitness issues, unfortunately.

  • There is bliss in seeing the world – or at least parts of it – in black and white, but not necessarily available or desirable to everyone, my friend. If you insist on Arteta is perfect or cannot/shouldn’t improve, then we have to agree to disagree.

    I’m being less capable of a manager than Arteta is a no-brainer. I’m worse manager than Graeme Souness, and maybe still worse than even Tony Adams. But does that mean that I cannot try to paint a balanced picture of them, including both praise and critique? Of course not.

    Everybody should feel free to approach the topic emotionally; probably I should do that, too. But unfortunately I can’t, so I have to resort to data, analysis and pattern recognition.

  • I am yet to read a single bit of genuine praise for Arteta from you, PB. Time to munch some humble pie my friend. 🙂

    Remember what you were demanding of me last year if Arteta would still be ‘unsuccessful’ this season.

    If he does not tick all your boxes that’s fine. That’s your perogative, but not seeing the bigger picture is just wrong.

  • I’m cooking lunch here so didn’t have much time to research my blog history, but random clicks to this season’s posts brought these results (in chronological order):

    1. “There is a lot of reserve in the guys, and still Palace didn’t have big chances to turn the game around, this is really encouraging for the next 4-5 games (where we can – and maybe should – collect the 3 points each). Mikel did well with the starting line-up, and the tactics/pressing was effective. Arsenal could go surprisingly far.”

    2. [on transfers] “… a step to the right direction. Our efforts to dispose of players are still horrible, but at least the loan department for the senior team is improving. For the new guys, Jesus and Zinchenko have already proven themselves. Neither of them came cheap, but we got quality for the money. Saliba is obviously one of the most important addition to the squad… ”
    (I’m not talking about Arteta here, but his decisions, so I think that would qualify as a genuine praise.)

    3. “There is a clear improvement to the starting XI, mostly because of the quality reinforcements of Jesus and Saliba, plus the capable – temporary or permanent – solution at LB by Zinchenko, and also because the squad is a year older and more mature, which is only a good thing when (almost) everybody is really young and somewhat inexperienced.”

    4. “The progress in my opinion: we win games by a significant margin without being lucky. Yesterday we kept Brentford at 0.54 xG, and we had many further chances to score. Against Aston Villa (albeit Lokonga played in Partey’s position) even though the 2:1 scoreline could imply a tough and balanced game, it wasn’t close at all. We had 22 shots (xG: 2.8) compared to Villas 4 (xG: 0.30), and their only goal probably should have been chalked off. Our defense has improved significantly, and so did our offense. […] I don’t have statistics to support, but my personal perception is that we conceded less yellow cards in the first 7 rounds (13) than we did in the similar period of the previous campaign.”
    (Again Arteta was not specifically mentioned, but it’s obviously his doing, his impact, his performance.)

    5. “Let’s give credit where credit due, Arteta made quite a progress from the opening round where he made 2 substitutions in the 84th minute and a 3rd one in the 92nd; today he made 2 in the 73rd and 2 in the 79th minute ‘already’. I hope this is a sign of flexibility”

    It is always value adding to remind anybody to aim for the full context and see the bigger picture. But it is funny coming from you. Remember our debate in mid-August on seeing academy players in Europe or the domestic cups?

  • These are mostly ‘shoes and dresses’ compliments… Your hobby horses. 🙂

    Anyway, let’s agree to disagree and move on. Not everyone will love what Mikel is doing, there is always black 🖤.

  • Hahahaha, TA, I had quite forgotten the many gauntlets PB threw down for Arteta while insisting we can’t improve much under Arteta (not in same words, mind). But, I also admit PB has been effusive in his praise of our team’s improvements and by extension, Arteta’s. A man is allowed to be wrong, you know and maybe humble pie isn’t a Hungarian delicacy, so…. 😜😅

  • Guys, agreeing to disagree is perfectly fine with me.
    And I have nothing against the humble pie. But it does not get served by voting. It is due (in my understanding) when a strongly convinced prediction becomes way off. I have been providing plenty of opportunities. I’ll be happy – or at least content – to have the humble pie if
    – Flores becomes a starter next year
    – we buy Vlahovic, Osimhen or David in the summer
    – Elneny plays more than 300 minutes next season
    – we beat Man City in the Etihad by 2+ goals
    – Hutchinson will publicly regret leaving Arsenal

    Before force-feeding me with the pie, where are your pledges? What are your massively convinced predictions beyond loyal statements we are going to the right direction, or the progress is visible?

  • There’s no doubt that given the support of the ownership, an inherited playing staff devoid of saboteurs, an ability to sign the players he wants rather than being given who the director of football wants and a better grasp of English will I believe see Unai Emery turn Aston Villa into a very dangerous and competitive team next season.

    I’m glad we don’t have to play them anymore this season.

  • Oh PB, I could not be more happy with Arsenal’s progress. We are far ahead of my hopes for this season in every aspect. Beautiful winning football, Mikel has turned Arsenal in the most beautiful person, and long may it continue. If you can’t see or value that, then that’s your perogative. As, long as you are happy with yourself it’s all fine.

  • A bit of counter points are always welcome otherwise it would be boring 😄. The rebuttal should be very pointed and there should be no trolling like Twitter. Any intellectual disagreement based on well made points only enhances the quality of the blog. Long may this continue but without the jibes and trolling.

  • Well, any hopes that Leicester might help us were swiftly dashed! On a lighter note, it appears that the Spuds are desperate for Gooners to be able to celebrate St Totteringham’s Day as soon as possible.

  • PB, you are a “hard man” to please, if those are your terms to “force feed” you the humble pie. 🤣

    Kev, pity, city don’t have to play them either. What a game they gave Newcastle today; Emery is determined to take them into Europe and that’s clear to see.

    OX10, we can’t wait to celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day.

  • Rumours that Zinchenko is out this afternoon – are e heading towards another defensive injury crisis like 12 months ago?

    and now Zinchenko…

  • I just came back from a weary morning of puppet-shows.
    Would it make sense to start writing the preview, if it can only be published 30 minutes prior to the game?

  • Maybe I have a flawed understanding on the humble pie concept, but I though it is the act of humiliation when somebody believes to know more or better, but eventually these beliefs turn out to be unfounded. Like when my friend said that Bayern Münich will destroy Man City in the CL quarter final without even conceding a goal. Even though BM might go through, his immovable prediction is already in ruins. He had the balls to come up with a bold statement, but apparently he wasn’t as wise as he thought, so he is eating the humble pie.
    Is my understanding and interpretation way off?

    If not, then if somebody says something that doesn’t happen that doesn’t call for the pie per definition. For example when you predicted a Chelsea victory against BHA or an Aston Villa-Newcastle draw that were simply guesses, estimates, not the essence of your understanding on UK football.
    Similarly, if we will not defeat West Ham by 0:2 that also doesn’t mean I know $hit about Arsenal, and I shouldn’t be force-fed the humble pie. This only applies when I imply that I know more than others of a certain detail or topic, and my conviction is really strong. Hence my list above. Somebody said that we will buy Osimhen, and I didn’t only say ‘I don’t think it will happen’, I said that I expect Arteta and Edu to be smarter than even to try signing the Napoli hit-man, but even if they isn’t Victor will not be that stupid to join to ‘compete’ with Jesus. The same applies to the other elements of the list. These are not expectation to Arteta or anybody. These are my predictions that I’m bold enough to announce in a manner that I’ll have to eat the humble pie if any or all will be wrong. If we will keep 3 classic (fit) strikers next year, I have to take the pie. If Elneny plays regularly I have to admit that I was a moron.

    And back to my question: where are the pledges or bold statements from you and the others?

    Btw, the preview is at your mailbox.

  • 1
    Odegaard (c)
    Smith Rowe

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