Player profile: who is Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo?

Arsene Wenger handed the youngster an FA Cup start against Liverpool - could he be an effective back-up for Olivier Giroud?

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Arsenal fans were left lamenting the Gunners’ failure to bring in a big-name striker over the transfer window - but could forgotten youngster Yaya Sanogo be the man to ease their attacking worries and banish thoughts of Draxler, Costa et al?

Arsenal are still fighting on three fronts, and with Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner the only first-team forwards in Arsene Wenger’s armoury, the manager looks set to turn to the 23-year-old Frenchman to spread the attacking workload, handing him an FA Cup start against Liverpool. But what can Gunners fans expect from Sanogo?

At first glance, Sanogo looks like an archetypal physical target man. Standing 6 foot 3 tall with a hulking physique to match, the former Auxerre striker calls to mind the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke. But appearances can be deceiving.

Yes, Sanogo is quick and strong – but there’s also a much subtler side to his game.  He has an excellent first touch and silky technical skills, honed at childhood club CO Les Ulis in Paris, Thierry Henry’s alma mater, where five-a-side practice matches are the norm.

European football expert Sam Tighe says Sanogo plays “an odd, hybrid forward game”, equally adept at hanging on the defender’s shoulder in search of a ball over the top or dropping deep to receive possession – from where he can use his explosive power to burst past his man.

Most importantly, Sanogo is a prolific marksman. In his last (injury-hit) season with Auxerre, he notched ten goals in 13 games, and he has also scored 34 times in 56 games for France’s various youth teams.  He can finish with composure in one-on-one situations, and also possesses a thunderous strike that can trouble goalkeepers from further out.

So what are Sanogo’s weaknesses? The most obvious charge against him is his brittle fitness. In 2010 he suffered a double leg-break while playing for Auxerre reserves, and since then he has been dogged by injuries and has never completed a full season of regular football. In this respect he has drawn unflattering comparisons with another Auxerre alumnus, Arsenal team-mate Abou Diaby.

In their article on Sanogo, French Football Weekly posed the question that may define his success at the highest level: “Has his technique survived these long periods of inactivity at such an important stage of his development?”

Despite his excellent ability to get into goalscoring positions, Sanogo can also tend to drop too deep on occasion, sometimes compromising his menacing penalty-box presence in his efforts to link up with his midfielders.

Sanogo might be raw and unproven, but he is still in the early stages of his development, and Arsene Wenger, a man who knows a thing or two about identifying young Gallic talent, is clearly seduced by his ability to cause havoc in the opposition’s box.

If he comes through his FA Cup baptism of fire with those credentials intact, Yaya Sanogo might just have a crucial support role to play in Arsenal’s quest for that long-awaited addition to their trophy cabinet.