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Khayon Edwards is as deserving of a promotion as Balogun

Folarin Balogun’s excellent form in the u23s has a lot of people rightly clamouring for him to step up or go out on loan, and Khayon Edwards’ performances in the u18s should be inspiring the same sort of response. Arsenal have the chance to help both of them out in the January window.Ahead of the EFL Trophy match against Ipswich Town this evening, Balogun has 14 goals and four assists for the Arsenal academy. It’s an impressive record that justifiably draws out the argument that he should be testing himself at a higher level.Down in the u18s, Edwards is also on 14 goals - if you include the one he scored in his only competitive start for the u23s. He also has three assists, so he’s just one goal contribution shy of Balogun’s season tally.It stands to reason that while we consider a loan or a first-team call-up for Balogun, we should also be questioning Edwards’ continued participation in u18 football.
The Arsenal u18s have been very reliant on a small group of goalscorers this season. Only six players have scored for the side in all competitions, and half of that group have scored fewer than three times. Edwards and Flores have over two-thirds of the 29 goals for Dan Micciche’s side.That fact arguably makes Edwards’ form all the more impressive. It’s always harder to score so many goals when you’re clearly the team’s main goalscoring threat, and when very few of your teammates are capable of picking up the slack (with the exception of Flores) or drawing away the various defences’ attentions.For all the goals Balogun has scored, he’s had a lot more help too. He’s one of 15 u23/u21 scorers, not including own goals, and he has just under 30% of their goals - compared to Edwards’ 45% of the u18s’.Khayon Edwards (L), Zane Monlouis, and Omari Hutchinson with the Arsenal u23s in pre-season (Photo by Dan Critchlow)When Edwards has had his rare opportunities to step up into Kevin Betsy’s team this campaign, he’s taken advantage.The only reason the Arsenal u21s are even playing in the EFL Trophy knockout rounds this evening is that Edwards came off the bench to assist a 92nd-minute winner against Newport County’s senior side in the group stage. Their only win of the group stage.Then, when Edwards got his first start for the u23s in the Premier League Cup, he scored his first goal. Before the season got underway, he also scored against Ebbsfleet United in an u23 friendly.Edwards' biggest strength this season has been his movement in the box, often picking up excellent positions for relatively straightforward finishes. But he’s also developing his game physically, and seems more capable of holding off defenders.Advert InsertedThat was how he got his match-winning assist against Newport, receiving the ball with his back to goal and a defender touch-tight, before turning his man, driving to the goalline and cutting a pass back for Charles Sagoe Jr to finish.Similarly, he scored a goal in an u18 PL Cup tie against West Ham by riding a sliding challenge before his shot, and there have been others like that. That all bodes well for the step up to the u23s.Khayon Edwards with the Arsenal u23s in pre-season (Photo by Dan Critchlow)Fortunately, the solution to Balogun’s problem seems to be the same as the solution to Edwards’.If Balogun moves on loan or joins the first-team, a space opens up behind him in the u23s. I wouldn’t expect Edwards to become an u23 starter immediately, but he’d certainly be able to play a bit more often with Balogun gone.It’s no coincidence that Edwards’ goal and assist in the higher age group this season came during the international breaks, when Balogun was off with the England u21s. That’s the only time he’s had a chance to play for Betsy’s team.There shouldn’t be much problem in the u18s, as Amani Richards looks capable of stepping into Edwards’ place. Richards only made his first competitive start of the season on Saturday, and he capped it with a goal.Between Eddie Nketiah’s contract situation, Balogun’s push for senior football, Edwards’ drive for the u23s, and Richards’ wait for u18 chances, there’s a lot riding on the business Arsenal are able to do with their forwards in January.All four of them could end the window in a much better position than they started, if all goes well.