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Arsenal striker beats Lionel Messi! …and Reims lender says he’s just getting started



It appears that the training Folarin Balogun received in England was a little preparation for this journey across the Channel.
“I studied a little French at school, but that wasn’t enough,” smiles the 21-year-old. All that he could remember? “Only bonjour … ca va,” he says. “There wasn’t much more.”

“At first there was a lot of fear,” admits the young striker, who spends the season at the Stade de Reims. “But as time went on, I just took sides and adapted to the culture as best I could. The results can be seen on the pitch.’

But as time went on, I just applied myself and adapted to the culture as best I could. The results can be seen on the pitch. “I’ll be honest,” she says. “I grew up on the field, but off the field my cooking and household chores have remained the same.” This means a lot of “improvisation” and help from teammates.

“I certainly have work to do.”

The same goes for the attacker’s language skills. The young Reims coach Will Still, 30, likes to make fun of Balogun’s French.
“I take two classes a week and do my best, but I’m not the fastest learner,” he says. “When we’re on the pitch, I just try to learn the key phrases to be able to communicate with (teammates) but it won’t happen overnight.”

The results in front of goal came quite easily.

“The conversations I had when I arrived at the club weren’t going downhill,” says Balogun.

Ultimately, Reims is looking for a place in Europe. Balogun’s goals were fundamental for that change of horizon.
So was Still’s agreement. Since the 30-year-old defender took charge in October, Reims have lost just once in Ligue 1.

Perhaps this couple was destined to learn: Still is a Brit who grew up in Belgium and speaks French, English and Flemish. Born in New York, Balogun is an England Under-21 international but remains eligible to play for Nigeria. “Will strikes the right balance between being tough on you and being nice enough that you feel comfortable enough to express yourself,” Balogun says. “It’s a very difficult balance to teach.”

Always has a knack for getting under Balogun’s skin; The striker knows there’s only one way to shut him up: score goals.
“When I arrived here, there was an expectation from Arsenal. It can create a little more pressure… he expects a certain level from me, he knows what level I want to play, so it’s normal that he sticks to it.

Still’s first game in charge was a goalless draw against PSG.
January’s second leg at the Parc des Princes also ended in a draw after Balogun scored a nerve-wracking 96th-minute equalizer. “It was something very special. The memory that sticks in my head was actually before the game: a conversation with Thierry Henry,” says the 21-year-old. “I really didn’t expect to see him. “

Balogun celebrated by paying homage to the Arsenal legend that has become a useful guide.
“I saw him a few times at the Emirates when I was at Arsenal, but those were just talks,” says Balogun.
“It’s nice to get to know him on a more personal level. I ask him questions and he helps me. So he’s a nice person to have in your phone.

What are they discussing?
“(He’s) someone who has seen the heights of the game and taken steps in his career that I’m taking now in terms of playing abroad. He knows the feeling and how uncomfortable it can be. So I’m asking broader questions about his career and how he felt at times,” Balogun says. Balogun had loan offers from several countries. He ended up in France, in Reims, precisely because he was ‘a risk’.

He adds, “(Thierry) takes a lot of responsibility for what’s happened in his life. It’s the same advice he gives me. He says, “You’re here for a reason and it’s up to you. Whether you take a chance or not is another matter. But you have to prove why you’re here.

“He has great responsibilities and that has definitely helped me this season.”

Not that Balogun is surprised by his success in France. However, just half a decade ago, his career hung in the balance at Hale End.
“When I was 15, 16 I was told I wasn’t doing enough and that I needed to improve my attitude and parts of my game,” he recalls. “That was the year we were told if we were going to get scholarships, so reality soon hit me. I’m not someone who needs to be said twice or thrice.”

“The same qualities” that helped him get back on track remain to this day.
In Reims, they were impressed by Balogun’s work ethic and quality. He considers himself a table tennis club champion; He is regularly found doing extra work in the gym.

It also explains why the 21-year-old, who lives alone – close to the city center – still has too much of Reims to explore. Free time is usually spent relaxing in bed. The rest is reserved for scoring goals.
“I set myself a goal of 10,” says Balogun. “I never intended to hit him and then relax. I increased it to 20. We still have a few games ahead of us. So there’s no reason why I can’t.

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William Saliba happy to focus on Arsenal title bid as contract talks continue

William Saliba insists he is “so happy” at Arsenal as contract negotiations continue behind the scenes of an increasingly compelling Premier League title bid.
The Gunners are eight points clear at the top after a 2-0 derby win at Tottenham on Sunday.

An own goal from Hugo Lloris and a long-range effort from captain Martin Odegaard secured Arsenal’s first-ever victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and propelled them higher up the table.

France international Saliba has played a big role in the club’s revival after making his debut earlier in the season after being loaned out three times from north London.

His performances have been so high that he is set to sign a new contract with Arsenal and he is ready to continue the talks in the background as Mikel Arteta’s side seek glory. “We are delighted because the derby is an important match, and it was also an away game,” he said.
“We know it’s not easy to win here, so we are so happy. We didn’t concede a goal and scored two.

“We are focused on ourselves. We are not targeting our rivals. We have to continue like this and only focus on ourselves.
“I’m so happy here. The club are talking to my agent and me, the only thing I can do is (focus on my football). I’m so happy here.”

After Spurs’ victory, Arteta said a continued title challenge “would need almost perfection” for the rest of the season, with Saliba now hitting back with a win over Manchester United – the only team Arsenal should beat this season – looking for the next weekend.

“It’s never enough,” he replied when asked what it meant to be eight points clear at this stage. “We know we have a lot of games to play. We have to be focused because things can change quickly. If we lose a game we can’t have confidence afterwards, so we have to be focused to go ahead and try to win. We focus on ourselves.

“There is no pressure. It’s better to have that pressure when you’re up than when you’re down. It’s better to continue like this and we don’t need to be under pressure.

“We know we have a big game next week. We know they beat us. They are the only team to have beaten us in the Premier League this season and we want to beat them again at home. “We will prepare for this match very well, I think, and I hope we win in front of our fans. We will continue. We didn’t know about it before (Arsenal could win the championship), but when summer started, I said tell me we can do something “.