Last night Middlesbrough dumped United out of the cup.

I’d completely forgotten that this weekend was FA Cup weekend! It’s been erased from my memory after our Forest debacle, but at least there was some Arsenal connection, as Balogun played 60 minutes for Boro and by the sounds of it performed quite admirably. I didn’t watch it because y’know, it’s United, but I’m pleased to read that he didn’t look out of place against a strong Premier League outfit.

He must be looking at the dismantling of our squad this season and thinking he’s got a shout to be back in the team for next season I would have thought. At least in and around the squad for sure, but it will be interesting to see what happens with him. This season started with Eddie as the young understudy behind Auba and Laca. That severely hampered game time for Eddie (not that I think he should have got any with no intention of signing a new deal) and so if come the first game of the season, Balogun had another two strikers in front of him because we’d made a couple of signings, I wonder if he’d accept that. We’ve seen so many instances of players going out on loan, getting game time, then nit liking the idea of a season making 15 starts. So I am wondering whether Balogun has the same though process.

The hope is that the loan spell continues to do well, he continues to get game time, Chris Wilder continues to play him and we get a player back who is ready to play ‘first reserve’. If we bring in a striker in the summer and have Balogun just behind him I suspect he’d be happy with that. If you’re the back up to the main man you’re probably making 25 appearances at least, most likely with a dozen starts, especially if we manage to somehow get back in to Europe.

But that’s the big question, isn’t it? How many strikers will we go for in the summer?

I’ve heard that we’re after two – and decent fees too – which would suggest Balogun would play third fiddle. If you think about the minutes Eddie got at the start of the season and right up until the Aubameyang transgressions, he barely featured at all. If you’ve got two strikers coming in then he will probably see his game time limited.

Perhaps Arsenal will opt for another loan, but this time to a Premier League club, maybe? If you think about his age and natural evolution, a season in the Premier League next year means he continues to grow, then with two years left on his deal by summer 2023, we know whether he can step up or not.

The only problem with that, however, is the fact that he’d only have two years left on his deal. If he spends this season and next away on loan, then comes back to The Arsenal and plays as an understudy in 23/24, we could get to a situation where we’re still not 100% sure if he can be the main man, but his contract has just a year left. It would feel very similar to the Eddie situation here and for the love of everything that is holy, I really wish we could stop having players run down their contracts.

People argue that sometimes there is nothing you can do about that, but I fundamentally disagree with that and what we need to see from Arsenal is a ruthlessness when it looks like players are doing it. As soon as a player has a year left on their deal, move hell and high water to get a fee for them. We’ve spent the best part of five years being terrible sellers apart from the odd player, so we need to stop holding on to players – Eddie, Ainsley, Chambers, etc – and get them out when we can still command a fee.

That is on Arteta too though. He’s been guilty of not being decisive enough with his decisions and you only have to look at the fact he didn’t send Eddie on loan last January to sniff out more buyers in the summer, as an example. Arteta kept Eddie around, hardly used him, which made a summer sale that little bit more difficult I suspect. He almost admitted as much in press conferences last year, at one point admitting it was on him with regards to Eddie.

It’s a learning experience for Arteta, but it’s one he has to learn now, and quick. We need to start seeing Arsenal be a little more sensible with player churn and both Arteta and Edu need to be able to make decisions a littler more swifter on players. Balogun could be that next case study waiting in the wings so after this loan spell at Middlesbrough I wonder whether or not they will act and make a decision on him one way or another this summer re: a loan spell rather than just keeping him around in the squad.

I think I’ll call that a day today. Taking the wife out for a belated birthday weekend in Oxford and need to get me haircut. You have a good one and I’ll catch you all tomorrow.