Yaya Sanogo is set to become Arsenal’s first signing of the summer.
It is rare for Arsene Wenger to speak so publicly about a transfer unless it is essentially a done deal.
Sanogo is, in many respects, a typical Arsene Wenger signing.
First and foremost, he is young. Arsene Wenger loves to sign players with potential. He seems to be fixated with securing players with the capacity to improve. As long ago as 2007, Arsene Wenger told The Daily Mail:
I'm not scared to spend big money. If there is a player that I feel we need then of course I will buy him.
But at Arsenal we make the superstars.
Sanogo is not a superstar yet, but Wenger will be hoping he will be one day.
Sanogo is just 20. He has been a youth international at almost every level for France. For the Under-16s he scored a remarkable 18 goals in 18 games; at Under-17 level he was named as captain—the full France national team is surely his destiny.
Sanogo’s nationality is also part of what makes him an archetypal Arsene Wenger recruit. Indeed, there are echoes of the signing of Nicolas Anelka, who arrived from Ligue 1 at 17 with a reputation as a burgeoning talent.
Like Anelka, Sanogo will be secured for a very low fee: His contract with Auxerre is due to expire, so Arsenal will only have to pay a cursory compensation amount.
Unlike Anelka, Sanogo is not a graduate of the prestigious Clairefontaine academy. He failed to gain admittance and was forced to drop into lower-league club football. However, it is here that Sanogo’s story finds a parallel with Arsenal’s greatest ever goalscorer, Thierry Henry: Sanogo joined CO Les Ulis, the same club where Henry’s extraordinary career began.
Sanogo’s journey eventually led him to Auxerre, where he began to realise his potential. He possesses an unusual combination of outstanding technical ability and raw physical power.
Unfortunately, his progress has been inhibited by another trait that is common to many Wenger signings: a history of injury problems.
He suffered a double leg-break on international duty in 2010. Since then, he has suffered several related muscular injuries. Much like Arsenal’s own Abou Diaby, his general fitness has suffered as a consequence of one major injury as a teenager.
In three years in Ligue 1, Sanogo managed just seven starts. When Auxerre were relegated in 2012, Sanogo was forced to stay as he was still undergoing rehab.
In December 2012, Sanogo made his return from injury. Since then, he’s been making up for lost time. His record in Ligue 2 has been impressive: According to WhoScored, he has scored nine goals in just 13 appearances.
Almost half of that haul came in one match against Laval. Sanogo was irrepressible, scoring four times in one match.
That display alone was a significant demonstration of the player’s talents. The question mark is not over his ability, but his capacity to withstand the robust challenges of the Premier League.
Sanogo’s youth, inexperience and injury problems make him a gamble. However, the absence of a major fee mean it’s a relatively cheap one.
If Sanogo does fulfill his potential, Arsenal will have a fantastic forward on their hands.