Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun scored his first ever professional hat-trick for Reims on Wednesday evening, as he continues to repay Mikel Arteta’s faith.
Balogun’s three goals in Reims’ 4-2 victory over Lorient makes him the third top-scorer in Europe, behind Erling Haaland (25) and Harry Kane (18).
Since going out on loan, he has set Ligue 1 alight, and is responsible for over half of his side’s goals this season. He now edges Kylian Mbappe in the goal scoring charts, having found the net 14 times since the start of the campaign.
The 21-year-old opened the scoring in the first half, converting a penalty to get his side back in the game.
Kamory Doumbia then levelled the scores early in the second half before Balogun took centre stage around the hour-mark.
The Englishman volleyed home before doing the same on his weaker left foot, less than five minutes later to put the game beyond Lorient.
Arteta: “We want him to be a part of our future”
Arteta was influential in keeping Balogun at the club, tying him down to a four-year contract in 2021 when it was thought he might leave the club.
Discussing the striker last year, when he was on loan at Middlesborough, Arteta insisted he was a part of Arsenal’s future.
He told the club’s website: “You can see how he is developing. This is going to give us more detail about what is the next best move for him to keep developing, because he has developed and we want him to be part of our future.”
Balogun recently opened up on his loan move to France, and his need to ‘develop as a man’.
Speaking to the Independent, he explained: “I think it’s very important to just throw yourself in at the deep end, as I’m trying to do, and hopefully I don’t drown.
“Before I moved, Mikel [Arteta] just wanted me to develop as a man. It was kind of like an open answer and it was for me to interpret what he meant by ‘develop as a man’.
“By moving abroad, I’m starting to learn what he meant by that. It doesn’t just mean on the pitch but also off the pitch. I think by the time I go back I’ll be in a better place to compete than I was before I left.”