Folarin Balogun needs first-team chance after another hat-trick | OneFootball
Folarin Balogun needs first-team chance after another hat-trick
The Arsenal u23s’ makeshift defence struggled in defeat to Derby on Friday night, but Folarin Balogun continued to shine with a hat-trick.
Mika Biereth with the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
The Arsenal u23s were missing quite a few players at the back against Derby County, with wing-backs Joel Lopez and Zak Swanson unavailable, and first-choice centre-backs Omar Rekik and Zane Monlouis also out.
To make matters worse, Brooke Norton-Cuffy was suspended, so Arsenal’s usually plentiful right-wing-back options were down to one – Ryan Alebiosu.
Due to the absences at centre-back, Alebiosu didn’t even play at wing-back, instead filling in as a right-centre-back. Midfielder James Olayinka played at right-wing-back, and winger Kido Taylor-Hart played at left-wing-back.
Mazeed Ogungbo was the sole member of the usual back five to play in his normal role, left-centre-back.
It was a similar story in goal, with Karl Hein and Arthur Okonkwo unavailable and Ovie Ejeheri filling in as a result.
LONDON, ENGLAND: Flo Balogun of Arsenal during the Premier League 2 match between Arsenal U23 and Brighton & Hove Albion U23 at Emirates Stadium on October 01, 2021. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
The makeshift Arsenal defence showed their flaws early on, as Louis Sibley gave Derby a lead after just three minutes. But Folarin Balogun gave the Gunners some hope that they could overcome their defensive issues to win anyway.
Initially, Balogun had the ball in the net from a James Olayinka assist after rounding the goalkeeper, but the assistant ruled it out for ‘offside’. That was very clearly the wrong decision, Balogun was easily on and robbed of a goal.
Balogun had his first goal of the night moments later, as Olayinka won the ball in midfield, quickly found Omari Hutchinson, who played it on to Mika Biereth, who slid a pass into Balogun’s path. It wasn’t an easy finish, but Balogun took it confidently.
Arsenal then briefly took the lead, as a mix-up at the back presented Balogun with an easy finish from close range for 2-1.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last, with Ryan Alebiosu forced to turn the ball into his own net from a dangerous cross for 2-2.
In the second half, things went from bad to horrific, as Arsenal conceded three goals in seven minutes to essentially surrender the match completely.
The best you can say is that at least things didn’t get any worse after that. Instead, Balogun scored his best goal of the night to bring it back to 5-3.
Set up by Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand, Balogun twisted and turned before curling a shot perfectly into the top corner.
It wasn’t enough to get Arsenal a result, but it was another individual show of ability from the u23 striker.
Kevin Betsy with the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
It’s pretty clear that this defence just wasn’t up to the task on the night. Kevin Betsy would be better off turning to some of the Arsenal u18s than continuing to play wingers and midfielders in wing-back roles and full-backs in the centre-back positions.
At the other end, the team continue to impress, with Balogun obviously the star but more goal contributions for Biereth and Salah-Eddine as well.
They’re just not going to win many games when they concede five.
It doesn’t even need to be said that Balogun has to be playing senior football in the second half of the season, after he made it 14 goals for the campaign on Friday. Everyone knows that by now, Arsenal just need to get working on it.
Arsenal u23 lineup vs Derby
Ejeheri, Alebiosu, Foran, Ogungbo, Olayinka, S. Oulad M’hand, Patino, Taylor-Hart, Hutchinson, Biereth, Balogun
Hillson, Jeffcott (for Taylor-Hart, 63), Akinola (for Alebiosu, 63), Butler-Oyedeji, Ideho
The Arsenal u23s play next on December 6th, in their Premier League 2 match away to Everton.
But before that, the u21s (the same team in all but name) face Ipswich Town away in the first EFL Trophy knockout round on Wednesday, December 1st at 19:45 GMT.