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Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Folarin Balogun: Analysing his strengths, weaknesses and using xGold to find clubs he can move to in the summer – scout report

Loaning out young players from big clubs doesn’t always yield positive results. It is not uncommon for a loanee to spend most of their time on the bench at a struggling club that employs a play style vastly different from their parent club, causing them to miss out on a critical stage of their development. However, Folarin Balogun‘s loan spell at Stade Reims appears to be a success story.

The Arsenal-owned forward has scored 18 goals in Ligue 1 this season, placing him fourth in the league’s top scorers chart behind Jonathan David and Kylian Mbappé, who have both scored 20 goals. Balogun has accounted for 45% of Reims’ goals this season and has played a vital role in the team’s success under manager Will Still.

Balogun’s breakthrough season seems to have come out of nowhere, raising the question of whether his performance is sustainable or just a fluke. However, to answer that question, it is essential to consider Reims’ context and the tactical system in which Balogun operates, as it significantly affects his performance.

This tactical analysis in form of a scout report will identify Balogun’s strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, in this analysis, we will figure out the importance of Balogun in Reims’ tactics and his potential next club after this season.

Player profile

Folarin Balogun is a young English striker born on the 3rd of July 2001. At a height of 1.78 metres, he plays as a forward and has shown great potential in his career so far. Balogun’s preferred foot is his right, and he possesses a range of skills that make him a promising player for the future.

Balogun is a talented striker who possesses a number of strengths on the field. His run-making ability is impressive, and he can often find space behind the defence with his dynamic speed. Balogun is also known for his pressing from the front, as he is willing to put in the work to win the ball high up the field and create opportunities for his team.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Despite his strengths, Balogun also has some areas for improvement. His touch can be inconsistent at times, which can lead to missed opportunities in the final third. His execution of passing can also be a weakness, as some of his passes lack accuracy or are poorly weighted. Finally, Balogun has been criticised for his poor shot selection, which can sometimes result in wasted chances in front of goal.


Balogun’s consistent ability to create good chances for himself has led to his impressive goal-scoring record at Reims. His non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes is 0.62, the third-highest in the league, which exceeds his actual goal tally of 0.55 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes, the 12th-highest in the league.

Balogun takes an average of 3.6 shots per 90 minutes, which is only surpassed by Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi among Ligue 1 players who have played at least 900 minutes. This high shot volume is a positive indicator for young forwards.

Additionally, his impressive xG per shot of 0.22 is due to his shots coming from transitions and the quality of his off-ball movement. Balogun tends to take shots from the wide areas of the box, as shown in the circled areas on his shot map.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Heavy first touches may be responsible for Balogun’s tendency to take shots from wide areas, making him less likely to score. This is the only significant weakness that his shot profile indicates.

However, Balogun’s shots demonstrate that he has created a considerable number of chances for himself through dribbling. Balogun has made the fourth-most carries that resulted in shots (22), and he is a skilled dribbler who uses feints, fake shots, and neat turns to work the ball out of tight situations and into the box.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

In summary, Balogun’s ability to generate high shot volumes and create chances for himself from the final third shows that he can excel in various contexts, regardless of the service he receives. However, his finishing skills could use some improvement, as he tends to miss high-quality chances in the central areas of the box. Although this trend is a cause for concern, the fact that he consistently creates top-notch opportunities for himself outweighs the negative impact of his subpar finishing.

Overall, Balogun’s shot profile offers plenty of reasons for optimism. Nonetheless, what happens right before he takes most of his shots is an even more critical indicator of his abilities.

Off-the-ball movement

Every attacking team requires forwards who can exploit the gaps in the opposition’s defence, and Balogun is a valuable asset to Reims in that regard. His speed and tactical awareness off the ball make him a constant threat to the opposing centre-backs on the receiving end of through balls and long passes.

Balogun’s positioning is usually high up the field and near the last line of defence, which results in a significant proportion of his open-play touches occurring inside the opponent’s box, approximately 19%. Nonetheless, he does not shy away from dropping deep or drifting out wide when he can receive the ball and participate in play, displaying versatility in his off-ball movements.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Despite being well-rounded off the ball, Balogun’s speciality remains running in behind the defence. His exceptional pace enables him to win any footrace, but it’s his positional intelligence that sets him apart. He can outsmart defenders with his runs and create space for himself. Although most of his current examples are against unsettled defences, he often curbs his runs successfully to get into open areas.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Balogun’s movement to meet crosses is also successful, as he often changes lanes, delays his run, or makes quick sprints to the near post. In general, he displays the positional intelligence and timing of runs that you’d expect from a top goalscorer, combined with a tremendous amount of speed.

Link-up Play

Although Balogun tends to position himself high up the pitch, he also drops deep and makes himself available in passing moves. Recently, he has been dropping even deeper as opponents defend with greater numbers against Reims. Balogun is proficient at playing one-touch flick-ons and wall passes with his feet, and he often uses his body to shield the ball from defenders. This is especially useful when Reims launch direct attacks.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

However, there is one glaring weakness in his passing – the weight of his passes. Many of his passes lack balance and can slow down the tempo of the attack. This flaw is particularly evident during periods of settled possession, and it raises doubts about how well he would perform in high-possession teams.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Overall, while Balogun’s ball work is effective in his current system, his limitations in link-up play may hinder his performance in a tactical system that is less reliant on transitions.

Attacking transitions

Reims thrive on direct attacking play, and thus, they need a striker who can excel at counter-attacking. As noted earlier, Balogun is often the target of long and direct passes during their successful counter-attacks. This is also reflected in the data, as evidenced by this map showing the passes that lead to Balogun’s shots. A significant number of these passes are long and vertical, often originating from deep positions. Balogun’s ability to turn these vertical passes, which are usually executed during counter-attacks, into shots and goals is consistently impressive.

Therefore, it’s fortunate that Balogun excels in this aspect. His goals mostly come from chasing through balls behind the opposition’s defence during counter-attacks. Moreover, he contributes to Reims’ quick advancement up the pitch during counter-attacks, even if he doesn’t score.

Balogun fills the right lanes and channels during counter-attacking moves, maintaining the appropriate width and spacing for successful counter-attacking. He seems comfortable playing on the left flank, which may be attributed to his history as a youth-level winger, and he occasionally gets into crossing positions from the wings during counter-attacks.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

In summary, it’s evident that Balogun’s primary forte is playing on the counter, whether he’s leading the counter-attack or making the final touch, which perfectly suits Reims’ system.

Defensive phase

Reims’ defensive tactics involve pressing high up the pitch to win back possession. This makes their striker, Balogun, a crucial part of their defensive setup. Although Balogun’s defensive stats may seem unimpressive, his contribution to the team’s defence goes beyond the numbers. He’s an active and dynamic presence off-the-ball, leading the pressing line and assisting his teammates in winning back the ball in advanced positions. He uses his pace to close down loose passes in his area effectively.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

In Reims’ mid-block, Balogun helps to push the opposition out wide by engaging with the defender on his side of the pitch and either winning the ball back or forcing them wide. Even when the ball passes him, he doesn’t give up and tracks back to support his team’s efforts to regain possession in deeper areas.

Balogun’s defensive work is a critical aspect of Reims’ overall tactics, and it’s a quality that would be valuable in any team he plays for.

Next step?

Many people question Balogun’s ability to perform outside of Ligue 1, but this concern may be overblown. Balogun faces tougher opponents relative to his team’s strength in Ligue 1, and he faces a variety of defensive styles.

However, there is a valid concern regarding his adaptability to different systems. Although Balogun exhibits skills that would work well in a high-possession side, such as offering himself as an option in passing moves, his passing weight could hinder his performance in a team that emphasizes intricate passing. Additionally, his success at Reims primarily comes from counter-attacks against unsettled defences, and it remains to be seen how he will fare in settled possession situations.

Moreover, as Reims’ primary goalscorer, Balogun may find it more challenging to score goals in a bigger side with more threats, which could make him less trigger-happy and more conservative in possession. Therefore, his high-usage performance at Reims may not translate to a team with more possession.

According to our xGold tool, Balogun has been identified as a player with a very similar profile to Christopher Nkunku, as shown in the radar chart below. Nkunku will likely be leaving RB Leipzig during the upcoming summer transfer window to join Chelsea. Hence, in our view, Balogun would be an ideal replacement for him.

Folarin Balogun at Stade Reims 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

The Managing Director of Sport, Max Eberl, and Sporting Director, Rouven Schröder, are looking for young players with potential to increase their market value, and the 21-year-old striker on loan from Arsenal FC at Stade de Reims fits their desired profile perfectly. He is young, strong in one-on-one battles (also defensively) and has the potential to increase his market value.

Along with Nkunku, Andre Silva may also depart from the team in the summer as he has not fully met the expectations in Leipzig. According to Sky sources, RB Leipzig is open to potential offers and may release the Portuguese player for around €20 million.


Although Eddie Nketiah, another young striker with a similar profile, is also in Arsenal‘s squad, Balogun’s quality is unmistakable, and it will be interesting to see what the club chooses to do with him. Nevertheless, Balogun appears to be in the ideal location for his career’s current stage at Reims.

There are many question marks surrounding Balogun in the current social media discourse, from his ability to succeed at Arsenal to which national team he will represent. However, there is no doubt about his talent and potential. RB Leipzig might be the perfect next step in his career.