Arsene Wenger’s faith in young players is legendary.
There is a section of the Arsenal fanbase which argues he is actually more interested in seeing a young player develop into a world-class player than he is in seeing Arsenal win trophies.
That in itself is a bit harsh, but there is no doubt that no club gives a young player as much opportunity to develop as Arsenal.
The only club that comes close is Southampton, and even then the likes of Chambers, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain only received their England call ups once they were given the opportunity to play in the Arsenal first team.
Yaya Sanogo is the latest talent to be championed by Arsene, and has been sent out on loan to earn some more valuable first team experience.
Although ineligible to face Arsenal this weekend, what better time to run the rule over our young forward than the week we play his loan club?
Signed from Auxerre in the summer of 2013 on a free transfer, the 22 year old’s career to date has been punctuated by injuries.
A broken leg following his senior breakthrough at Auxerre limited Sanogo’s playing opportunities, but didn’t stop him scoring 11 goals in 24 games for the French side. Very much a signing based on potential rather than proven quality, it was a typical Arsene punt, but not much of a gamble given he didn’t cost a bean.
Upon joining Arsenal, a back problem picked up on international duty meant that the forward’s first game wasn’t until the following January.
At that point though, he was an ever present in the FA Cup team – his debut start against Liverpool was impressive enough to silence the widespread critics before the game, getting an assist and generally causing total havoc in the Liverpool defence.
FA CUP WINNER
Wenger stuck with him through the whole competition, and the lanky forward came on with half an hour to go of the final to repay his manager’s faith.
Although he didn’t get the goal, Sanogo’s arrival kickstarted the Arsenal pressure that led to an equaliser and then to a winner, putting himself about and playing close to Giroud meaning that Hull couldn’t get out of their own half.
The most impressive part is that throughout his game time, he didn’t give the impression of having much control of his body or his performances at all.
Certainly his confidence clearly wasn’t fully there, yet he still made a meaningful impact on the games.
Imagine his potential if he can control his exuberance and skills. He’s already proven that he can make the difference on the big stage.
Sanogo started 2014-15 well, with four goals in a single Emirates Cup game against Benfica silencing some critics and giving the young forward more confidence as he got the goalscoring monkey off his back.
He picked up a couple of games at the start of the season before a hamstring injury saw him face a spell on the sidelines during the same period that Olivier Giroud was out with his broken foot, a most unfortunate turn of events for the Frenchman who would surely have been slated as cover for that period.
Instead, Chuba Akpom stepped forward into the Arsenal squad.
Wenger clearly rates his compatriot. Sanogo was trusted to start the last two Champions League group games ahead of Akpom following Giroud’s omission from the squad as he recovered from injury, despite having only recently returned from injury himself.
Promisingly, he scored a goal apiece in the FA Cup and Champions League.
We’ve all seen the demise of Fernando Torres or Roberto Soldado from regular goalscorers following a loss of confidence, so it is important for Sanogo to find the net on occasion, even while he’s still developing.
League games have proven rather harder to come by, and although seemingly ahead of Akpom in the pecking order judging from the cup competitions, Sanogo has much development to do before he can regularly compete with Giroud to lead the line.
It was therefore little surprise that January brought with it a loan move for our number 22.
FINDING HIS FEET
A man with plenty of raw talent, Sanogo always reminds me of a foal just taking his first steps, such is his gangly frame and his ungainly gait.
There is a lot of potential there to work with – he is excellent physically, strong both in the air and on the ground, and he has shown considerable technical ability in patches.
Those patches are part of the problem – as with most young players, Sanogo’s real goal is consistency – he swings wildly from looking like a quality player to seemingly never having touched a football before, and often in the same game.
The aforementioned goals in the FA Cup and the Champions League have gone a long way to settling his composure, where in his early games he was so desperate to score that it coloured his all round game, shooting at will – he has become much more team orientated since getting the goals.
As with Coquelin’s move to Charlton, it will do Sanogo no harm to spend a bit of time away from the comforts and facilities at Arsenal. It will help him to appreciate the quality around him at his parent club, in terms of staff, players and environment.
Equally, playing in a team scrapping lower down in the table will help to iron out some of his naiveties – there will be no mollycoddling if he fails to pass to a better placed colleague and it costs Palace goals.
He will learn the necessities of contributing throughout a game and maintaining concentration in a way that is much harder when game time comes in matches which are already won as would more likely be the case had he stayed at the Emirates.
CAN HE SOAR LIKE AN EAGLE?
Sanogo is a player with a huge amount of innate ability, and if he can ally this to Premier League experience and a greater control of his body and his skills then he has the potential to be a real menace.
Crystal Palace is a great place for him to learn his trade, as their forwards are expected to bring the wider players into the game, but also arrive in the right place and the right time to get on the end of their endless supply of crosses.
Clearly Arsene has faith in Yaya, and it’s easy to see why when the building blocks are there.
If he can place those blocks on top of one another then we will find ourselves with a towering centre forward.
Then Arsene will be able to win trophies andproduce a world class talent at the same time. Win win.*
*Like we want to do on Saturday.
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