THE loan signing of Folarin Balogun is something of a free hit for both Middlesbrough and Arsenal. But rather more importantly, it highlights the impressive fruits of Boro’s labour.

The highly rated 20-year-old is at an important time in his career which is a limbo phase between youth team and first team. He’s been more than impressive at youth level and has been a regular feature for the England Under-21’s side. But for Balogun to break the boundaries of first team regular at the Gunners, a loan move elsewhere is necessary.

His goalscoring record at youth level speaks for itself. This season, he’s scored 15 in 14 games across the Premier League 2 and Papa John’s Trophy.

From a Boro perspective, they are looking to add much needed firepower if they are to build on their recent impressive run of form and continue to mount a push for promotion. In terms of goalscorers, Boro have been in short supply. Not just this season but over the course of the last few years.

In terms of the technicalities of this deal, why did Boro beat other clubs to his signature? The simple answer is that Arsenal pushed for him to go there.

It’s understood that other clubs were willing to pay more than Boro to win the race for Balogun but the Gunners were so impressed by the way in which Teessiders were conducting their business and the project they were implementing at the club, they decided that Balogun would be best suited to go to Boro under the stewardship of Chris Wilder and under the pretence he would get enough game time to aid his development.

What reflects very well for Boro is that finances played little part in Arsenal’s motivation in sending him to Teesside. Initial reports surrounding Balogun’s temporary switch to Teesside suggested that Boro were willing to pay the entirety of his wages to seal his signature. That is understood to be wide of the mark with Boro paying a small proportion of his reported £40k salary from Arsenal.

Clearly, tapping into Balogun’s potential at Championship level will be a task but Wilder, who has chased the signature of the 20-year-old alongside Head of Recruitment Kieran Scott, will be well up for the task of doing just that.

Wilder has reiterated that Boro’s work for the January transfer window was being conducted weeks in advance of it’s opening. With just 12 days gone, Boro have three new signings to choose from in Balogun, Aaron Connolly and Caolan Boyd-Munce.

But the moves for these players have placed a particular emphasis on youth with all three being under the age of 21 and boasting a reputation for having big futures in the game. Clearly, player development is a big part of his remit. 

In terms of attacking options in his squad, Chris Wilder now has some scary players to choose from.

Aaron Connolly already boasts Premier League pedigree having burst onto the scene with Brighton and Hove Albion a number of years ago and going on to score goals in the top flight.

Andraz Sporar is coming into his own at Boro having found recent form in front of goal scoring in his last three games adding to his total of six goals in 20 appearances.

Now with the addition of Balogun, Boro have another potential exciting goalscoring talent on their hands that can add to their firepower.

Chris Wilder said: “We’re delighted to get Flo in. He’s a player I’ve known about for a long time and we identified him as someone who could come in and improve us in the second half of the season.

“He’s got great movement, good pace and he’s a natural finisher. We’re looking forward to working with him.”

With Boro completing three additions in such a short space of time, attentions may now turn to offloading players with a number of Wilder’s squad set to be heading for the exit door.

Now that Balogun has completed his medical and sealed his switch to the club, it remains hopeful that he will be available to make his debut in this weekend’s home game against Reading at the Riverside Stadium. Boro will be looking to make it six wins in a row and climb into the Championship play-off places.