Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has revealed that he spoke to Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe before making his loan move to Stade Reims in the summer.
Balogun, 21, struggled to get opportunities at the Emirates as he made just 10 senior appearances, scoring two goals and providing one assist. He joined Middlesbrough on loan in January 2022 but could only contribute three goals and three assists in 21 games.
Balogun has now joined Stade Reims and has been prolific for the Ligue 1 outfit. He has scored eight goals and provided two assists in 15 games this season.
The England U21 international recently revealed that former Arsenal teammates Lacazette and Pepe encouraged him to move to the French league. He said (via The Athletic):
“I spoke to Laca [Alexandre Lacazette] and Nico [Nicolas Pepe] before making the move. Laca told me he thinks it’s a good league for me and that I needed to start playing. Then Laca left and I spoke to Nico when we were in America on the pre-season tour. He could see during that time I was a bit upset because I wasn’t playing."
Balogun went on to claim that Pepe also set him a 10-goal challenge in Ligue 1 and said:
“He just said to stay positive, keep working hard and then he said to maybe think about a loan to the French league, ‘I’m sure you can do well in this league if you apply yourself.'"
“He set me a challenge of getting 10 goals in the league and said, ‘If you do that, you’ve made progress.' Later on, I heard the interest from France and I’m sure what he said was in the back of my mind somewhere.”
Lacazette left Arsenal earlier this summer to rejoin Olympique Lyon while Pepe is currently on loan at OGC Nice.
Gabriel Jesus picked up a knee injury with Brazil at the 2022 FIFA World Cup and will be out of action for three months. Arsenal could look to recall Balogun in January to partner Eddie Nketiah in attack.
Arsenal to resume their Premier League campaign on Boxing Day
The Gunners currently sit at the top of the Premier League table with 37 points, five more than second-placed Manchester City.
They have also reached the Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League. However, the north London outfit were eliminated from the EFL Cup in the third round by Brighton & Hove Albion.
Arsenal will next play Juventus in the Dubai Cup on 17 December before resuming their Premier League campaign against West Ham United at home on 26 December.