The 20-year-old striker has an impressive strike rate in Ligue 2, but has struggled with a series of injuries throughout his career and is yet to complete five consecutive matches
By Robin Bairner
Yaya Sanogo will arrive in London a virtual unknown, having played only 22 senior matches in France, and, with no transfer fee associated with the move from Auxerre, he is in many ways an archetypal Arsene Wenger signing.
At 20 years old, the striker shows terrific promise. He is from the athletic school of French forwards, built with strength beyond his years and blessed with electric pace. Perhaps most importantly to Gunners fans, though, is that he has shown himself to be a genuine goalscorer this season.
From his 11 matches with Auxerre in Ligue 2, he has scored an impressive nine goals. Seven of these came in back-to-back games, in which he struck a treble versus Tours exactly a week after scoring four times in an encounter away at Laval. Such a prolific ability in front of goal is rare for one so young.
Those attributes, it would seem, should have big clubs clamouring for his signature but the interest has been relatively muted. Lille proved to be Arsenal’s biggest rivals for Sanogo’s signature but, given his capacity to find the net, there has been a surprising lack of serious interest from elsewhere.
Looking at the player’s injury record gives a clue as to why. He has been beset by problems throughout his young career, including a broken leg that kept him out of virtually the entire 2009-10 campaign and a torn adductor that saw him sidelined for much of the following season.
To make matters worse, Sanogo was plagued by a series of more minor issues over the course of last season. By the end of the campaign, the striker had posted a career best of making six consecutive starts for his club.
Sanogo has a habit over overcoming setbacks, though. As a youth he was turned away from the illustrious Clairefontaine academy and instead played for local Parisian club Les Ulis for a year as a 13-year-old. Les Ulis have proven themselves capable of forming world-class striking talent in the past, with Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry among their alumni.
If Sanogo’s ability to remain fit is questionable, there are few problems elsewhere in his game.
Standing at comfortably over six feet tall, he possesses a physical strength that his lanky frame would suggest unlikely, allying this with great pace that makes him difficult to stop once he gets away from defenders.
He has been compared to Romelu Lukaku due to his similar height and approach, yet there can be little doubt that the Chelsea man, who shone during his season-long loan at West Brom, is a good deal further along in his development.
Sanogo, however, has greater scope for improvement. First-team matches will bring with them a greater understanding of the game while there is little doubt that working with Wenger’s team at Arsenal he can improve his link-up play and become a more rounded striker.
The France Under-21s international is not the first man that Wenger has plucked from Auxerre, following previous moves for Bacary Sagna and Abou Diaby, with the latter also moving at the age of 20.
Gunners fans hoping that he will be an immediate replacement for Robin van Persie are likely to be left disappointed but, if the young Frenchman is given the enough time to develop and shrugs off the injury problems that have hindered his development to date, there is little doubt that Wenger may just have found himself another diamond in the rough.