Goals have dried up for potential USMNT star Folarin Balogun - can he end his Reims spell with one final exclamation mark?

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Folarin Balogun Reims 2022-23
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The Arsenal loanee is on his worst run of the Ligue 1 season, having not found the net in any of his last four matches

It's been one whole month since Folarin Balogun scored, and it's a credit to how fantastic he's been to call that fact somewhat alarming. Goalless in four entire weeks? By Balogun's standards this season, that's a goal drought.

But now, heading into the business end of the season, Balogun and Reims are facing their first real blip since Will Still took over as manager. Their recent win over Lille ended a three-game winless skid. Barring a miracle, Reims will be unable to push for a European spot. Their recent run has all but ended their hopes, with nine points, six teams, and four games standing between them and a continental place.

Still, these four games will feel like big ones for Balogun and Reims. It will almost certainly be their final matches together before the striker, inevitably, parlays his Ligue 1 success into something bigger and better.

As rumors continue to swirl about the striker's international and club futures, Balogun has already ensured that this 2022-23 season will be remembered as a special one. The question is now if he can end it on the high note that it certainly deserves.

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  1. A breakout campaign

    A breakout campaign

    Not even Balogun could have imagined this, right? When he joined Reims on loan to start the 2022-23 season, it was a chance at a fresh start. Minutes would be hard to come by at Arsenal, and minutes were exactly what Reims could offer. After finishing 12th last season with just 43 goals in 38 games, the French side needed a striker, so they handed the keys to the unproven Gunners starlet.

    What a decision that has turned out to be for all involved. At Reims, Balogun has blossomed into one of Ligue 1's most dominant goalscorers, with 18 so far this season, going toe-to-toe with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Jonathan David and Wissam Ben Yedder atop the goalscoring charts through most of the campaign.

    And Reims, under inexperienced head coach Still, pushed their way up the table, competing for European places for most of the season before falling back down a bit in recent weeks. It's been a marriage made in heaven, for sure.

  2. Something of a drought
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    Something of a drought

    Perhaps the most impressive thing about Balogun's breakout season is how consistent he's been. He hasn't padded stats with multi-goal performance against relegation fodder. He has just two multi-goal games, accounting for just five of his goals this season.

    Instead, Balogun has been remarkably steady, good for a goal every game or two each step of the way. He scored in each of Reims' first three games of the season and five of their first six, and it all seemingly snowballed from there.

    Prior to this recent four-game drought, Balogun had gone multiple games without scoring just five times this season. Only one of those occasions lasted three games, a run in February/March that saw Reims still managed to collect seven of nine points anyway. Despite the goals temporarily drying up, Reims kept winning, and then Balogun scored in three of his next four.

    Now, though, the results and goals have both dried up. Since Balogun's last goal, which came on April 9 in 1 -1 draw with Brest, Reims have lost 3-0 to Rennes, 2-0 to Strasbourg and 1-0 to Clermont Foot, effectively ending their European hopes. They got back on track with a 1-0 win over Lille, but it likely won't be enough to make a big push to close the season.

  3. An uncertain future

    An uncertain future

    The slight dip in form comes at a vital time for Balogun, who faces uncertain futures both at club and international level. The young striker has seen his profile skyrocket in recent months, but with success comes an even bigger spotlight. Fans in both England and the U.S. are paying close attention to his heroics in Ligue 1. Suddenly, everyone is watching Balogun.

    He's become something of a hero in the U.S. already, despite not committing to the national team. A commitment is not expected any time soon, either, as it benefits Balogun to take some time before tying himself to a national team one way or another.

    Still, it must be noted that his form has dipped a bit since he was anointed in the U.S., having scored just once since Balogun-mania reached its peak during his international break trip to Orlando in March.

    England is also watching, but not just with an eye on the international game. Balogun's future at Arsenal is quite uncertain, with it likely being in his best interest to use his Ligue 1 success as a springboard somewhere other than the Emirates Stadium. Clubs such as AC Milan and RB Leipzig have been linked, and both would represent a pretty big step up for the young striker.

    Still, much can change over the next few weeks. The world will certainly be watching before what very well could be a life-changing summer for the 21-year-old forward.

  4. The goalscoring charts
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    The goalscoring charts

    A chance at the Golden Boot is likely gone, but Balogun could still seal a top spot in the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts. Mbappe and Alexandre Lacazette look set to duke out out, with the two French stars each having 24 goals apiece.

    David is just behind them with 21, while Lois Openda sits fourth with 19. And that then brings us to Balogun who, alongside Strasbourg's Habib Diallo, has 18 goals.

    A few goals could be enough to keep the Arsenal loanee in a top-five spot, an impressive feat given Reims' position in the league. Any extension of this drought, though, and he could tumble a bit, with Ben Yedder, Elye Wahi and Terem Moffi all sitting on 17 goals. Looming large, also, is Messi, who has 15 goals to go with his league-leading 15 assists for PSG.

  5. The final weeks

    The final weeks

    Reims face a big game this weekend as they take on second-place Lens, who will see this match as a must-win as they look to chase down PSG atop the table. Entering the weekend, Lens are six points behind Mbappe, Messi and co. and realistically need a miracle for PSG to drop enough points to let them back into contention.

    Next up will be a match against last-place Angers, who are bound for Ligue 2, before Reims close the season against seventh-place Lyon and 12th-place Montpellier in their final two matches. Lyon are one of five teams that stand between Reims and a European spot, making that push all but impossible. With just seven points from their last seven matches, that ship has seemingly sailed on Reims playing continental opposition in 2023-24.

    That doesn't make this season any less of a success, though, for Reims or Balogun. The club has certainly taken a step forward this year, famously going unbeaten in their two games against PSG while pushing for a European place until the final weeks. Balogun, meanwhile, has gone from Arsenal prospect to one of the world's most in-demand young strikers, one that should have his choice of suitors this summer.

    He could make the list of suitors even longer in the coming weeks, though, as he looks to add an exclamation mark to his breakout campaign. Despite the recent drought, Balogun can still leave Reims fans with one or two goals to remember him by before looking ahead to whatever's next, wherever that may be.