Arsenal allowed Folarin Balogun to join Stade de Reims on a season-long loan deal in the last window after he returned from a short temporary spell at Middlesbrough.
The striker has managed to impress for the French club, scoring six goals and registering two assists from 10 league games.
L’Equipe have published a long interview with the Arsenal owned player. When asked if his own form has surprised him, the 21-year-old discussed how he’s settled at the club after his initial days were challenging.
Balogun came up through the ranks of Arsenal’s youth system and he also talked about how the time spent in the Gunners academy has helped him with his technical development.
“Arsenal is my family! For me, this club represents fraternity and unity. I learned to always push my limits. What I remember from my training is the constant desire to make us progress technically,” he said.
“For example, we had to control the ball for 45 minutes without ever letting it fall to the ground. I did this exercise again this morning [Thursday] in training. Thierry Henry, ‘the Legend’, who sometimes coached us, taught us that technical quality is the basis of everything. The more we have, the more time we have to decide what to do with the ball and see before the others.”
Reims have already seen their players receive red cards on six occasions this campaign. Balogun shared an insight on how he manages to mentally control emotions while on the pitch.
“In the youth, I was sent off three times. I worked a lot on it to never be [sent off] again because it’s too frustrating. I read books on mental preparation, I watched the matches being attentive to the situations that could lead to it,” he stressed.
“So, I try to anticipate. To evolve at my best level, I need to have a little rage and passion, but I don’t let them control me anymore. It’s very important. Without these sending offs, we would surely be in a better position (than 15th). At eleven against eleven, we demonstrated in sequence a very interesting potential.”
The Arsenal man draws inspiration from Brazil legend Ronaldinho. He revealed this when asked if it is important for him to smile on the pitch.
“Absolutely! My favourite player is Ronaldinho, who always smiled and wanted to entertain the spectators,” Balogun added.
“Even if, of course, I seek above all efficiency and I take my job very seriously, the desire to always offer joy through play is important to me. I like to entertain the spectators, while showing my character and my personality. I therefore also draw a lot of inspiration from Ronaldo the Brazilian, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, by trying to reproduce some of their actions.”
Balogun, however, is aware he needs to further improve his game.
“After my first match in the Premier League, a defeat at Brentford [August 2021], where I learned of my place at the last moment, I was very disappointed with my performance,” he added.
“But it made me realise that I was not ready, and it made me want to progress more. It helps me a lot. Like my time at Middlesbrough, where I discovered the No.10 position and where I physically toughened up against rough and angry defenders.”