Yaya Sanogo is, in the grand scheme of things, another young prospect unearthed by Wenger, on a list as long as my arm. Due to our lack of signings however, instead of taking a back seat, becoming accustomed to a new club and finding his feet in a new country, he has been thrust directly into the first team and has been exposed to the harsh spotlight that most signings of his age would be shielded from.
Obviously we would all be far happier if this was not the case, and if Wenger had brought in a plethora of world class talent to bolster the squad. But as these additions are yet to arrive, and as like it or not Sanogo is in the spotlight, we should look at his performances so far and see why Wenger seems to have such faith in the young Frenchman.
So far, after missing the Asia tour due to international duties for the Under 20 World Cup, Sanogo has made 3 appearances for the Gunners, 1 in pre season at the Emirates cup, 10 minutes of Premier League action against Fulham, and a half hour spell in the second leg against Fenerbahce. His Arsenal career almost got off to a a dream start on his debut against Galatasaray. After a mistake by the Turkish side’s defence gifted him the ball, he strode forward and for a brief moment he and Chamberlain were 2 on 1 on the edge of the box. He could have played the Ox in, but instead he turned the defender skilfully and made himself plenty of time and space. Nerves seemed to set in however, and he hurriedly snatched at the ball, striking it tamely towards the keeper; a great chance wasted. Although scoring in the opening minutes of his debut would have been fantastic, it would not have told us a whole lot about his Arsenal future, Gervinho scored with his first touch in pre season against Koln, and look where he is now.
His finishing didn’t improve during the course of the game, and when the ball fell to him 6 yards in front of goal he struck it straight at the keeper. He looked to be already wheeling away to celebrate when he realised his shot had been saved, and there was a definite twinge of embarrassment on his face. He had actually been flagged offside, but he wasn’t to know that when he struck his shot. His shooting in general has been poor in all his outings as a Gunner, he doesn’t seem to steady himself before taking his shots, which so far has resulted in all of them either going high and wide or tamely and harmlessly trickling goalwards.
Although too early to really judge him, we can certainly look at his brief appearances and get some idea of the kind of player he is and the kind of player he could become. Although playing a Striking role he certainly doesn’t stick to the middle of the pitch, he can often be seen coming wide to link up, and if anything this is where he has had the most affect. He also appears to regularly drop deep to collect the ball rather than playing off the shoulder of the last defender; most probably because he lacks the pace and mobility required to do so.
Coming on as a substitute in the Fenerbahçe game, what was very noticeable was his poor first touch. Whether the ball was played in the air or along the floor, he seemed to lack a soft touch or any kind of close control. He did however, link up well on a couple of occasions and was a major contributor for the second goal.
Based on the fleeting glimpses of Yaya we’ve had so far, it is clear to me that while he seems to be a player that will suit the Arsenal style and ethos, and also appears physically capable, he is still far too raw to be anywhere near the starting eleven. His technical ability is a far cry from the level expected of the Arsenal first team, but for a young player looking to become a star, there are few places better than the Emirates.
He has a pretty good goal scoring record at all youth levels as well as with Auxerre’s senior team, we all know however, that the Premier League is an entirely different animal. If Wenger doesn’t sign a striker in the remaining days of the transfer window and we are left with Sanogo as our second choice, I think there will be outrage among fans; and rightly so. If Giroud were to suffer an injury or a suspension then I don’t think Sanogo would be an adequate replacement. I would love to be proved wrong and for Sanogo to go on to be a huge success this season, in 1999 Arsene signed another relatively unknown French forward, and he went on to become Arsenal’s all time top scorer. Unfortunately I can’t see Yaya as the next Thierry Henry, and I certainly can’t see him having the impact we need this year.