The missing piece of Wolves’ puzzle is there for the taking if club act decisively

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Wolves are in need of attacking reinforcements this summer, and an ideal option is up for grabs.

Football, despite what a rabid horde of armchair pundits and keyboard warriors would have you believe, is hard. Football without a decent striker to put the ball in the back of the net, is harder still. For large parts of last season, Wolves were essentially left to storm the trenches with nothing but a spud gun and dog-eared edition of the bible in their breast pocket.

Julen Lopetegui’s side, bereft of a consistent, menacing goal threat, scored fewer times than any other side in the Premier League this term- registering just 31 strikes in 38 games. Their most prolific marskmen across all competitions were Daniel Podence and Ruben Neves with six goals each, and the more traditional striking trio of Hwang Hee-chan, Raul Jimenez, and Diego Costa netted eight times in total between them. Some barren patches make the Atacama look verdant and luscious by comparison.

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In short, then, Wolves cannot afford a repeat of their struggles in front of goal next season. Some shortcomings are easier to mask than others, and an inability to score goals is a great, hulking blemish on a side’s hopes and ambitions. It’s like ignoring the low fuel light on your car; you might get away with it for 20 miles, you might even get away with it for 40, or 60, but sooner or later, you will conk out on the hard shoulder.

Wanderers, therefore, need to sign a striker this summer. There, problem solved. You’re welcome, Julen. Might as well just clock out now and get an early finish...

Of course, things are sadly not that simple. Finding the right centre forward is a tricky, laborious task, and one that - as proven by Wolves’ miserable triumvirate of wet spaghetti strands this season - can often return very little in the way of meaningful, well, anything. But still, necessity dictates that clubs and their weary, stat-addled scouting departments must try regardless.

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Meanwhile, in north London, a sense of dissatisfaction lingers heavy in the air. Stunted and stilted by a lack of opportunity, and now thoroughly convinced of his own capabilities, Folarin Balogun has given Arsenal a classic ultimatum; play me or sell me.

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Speaking a few days ago, fresh off the back of scoring his first senior international goal for the USMNT in a CONCACAF Nations League final against Canada, the young striker made his feelings about his future with the Gunners overtly clear.

“I’m not sure [about] the discussions that are going to take place,” he said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. But I’m just committed to now; I try to stay present. I obviously want to enjoy the moment with my team and my family. What I can say is that I definitely won’t go on loan again.”

His most recent loan spell, with Stade Reims in France, was a roaring, rip-snorting success - some would argue to an almost unexpected degree. Balogun registered 22 goals in 39 matches across all competitions, and scored more than the likes of modern greats Lionel Messi and Neymar in Ligue 1 alone. Naturally, talk has turned to whether or not he could replicate those kind of feats for Arsenal, although with the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah ahead of him in the pecking order, the expectation is that he might not get too many chances to.

Evidently, for a player of Balogun’s obvious ambitions, a peripheral role is no longer good enough, and as such, nobody would be too shocked to see him leave his boyhood club in the coming months. This is where any number of Premier League clubs could step in, and perhaps where Wolves should too.

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More than anything, Wanderers need a finisher - a player capable of dispatching the chances that, at the moment, are going begging. By no means is Balogun the finished article, but one of the things that he absolutely does have going in his favour is that he knows where the goal is. His instinctual awareness - further facilitated by a knack for dynamic, intelligent movement - has caused havoc in France over the past few months, and there is no reason to believe that he couldn’t have a similarly impactful Premier League run in him.

That is if he stays in the Premier League at all, of course. Already, with speculation over his future simmering nicely, the likes of Inter and AC Milan have been touted as potential destinations, as have Serie A champions Napoli. The stature of the suitors reflects the 21-year-old’s notable potential. Arsenal have realised this too, seemingly, and there is talk of the Gunners demanding as much as £40 million for the academy graduate this summer. That’s a lot of money, but not so much that it would necessarily force Wanderers out of the running - especially if and when Ruben Neves’ Saudi Arabian exit is confirmed.

How Wolves reinvest that money could hold the key as to how they fare next season. Their last campaign was pockmarked by relegation fears and ineffectiveness in front of goal. The two are not mutually exclusive. Under Lopetegui, they soundly pulled away from the bottom three, and looked more like the Wanderers of old - albeit without the distinct advantage of a potent centre forward - but there is much work left to be done.

A period of stellar recruitment is needed to maintain the momentum that has begun to gather with the Spaniard at the helm, and moving swiftly to snap up one of the most promising young emerging strikers in the country would be as good a statement of intent as any.

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If his recent efforts on the continent and the international stage are anything to go by, the minute-hungry Balogun is sure to bring a goal-scoring presence with him wherever he goes. Wolves, for their part, are in desperate need of somebody who can provide them with exactly that. Sometimes it doesn’t take a Mensa member to see when something has the potential to be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

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