LONDON — A watching Alexis Sanchez will have settled into his chair at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday aware of the challenge Olivier Giroud poses to his place in the 2014-15 Arsenal XI. What no one likely told him, though, was that Yaya Sanogo represented a threat, too.
That's because up until 16:45 p.m. (BST), he wasn't one, but a maiden strike in Arsenal colours finally, indubitably announced the long-awaited "arrival" of the Frenchman as a striking option.
His run-outs last season, frankly, made for concerning viewing: Very little in the way of touch, technique or presence of mind was evident, and he often looked out of place.
Bayern Munich showed just how far he had to go before troubling the big boys, and his eight Premier League substitute showings bore no fruits in front of goal.
He missed the first six months of the season because of a weak physical frame, with Arsene Wenger sending him on a fitness and strengthening course to try and ensure his earlier injuries didn't curtail his career too soon.
Some fans even joked about the idea of rebuilding fellow injury-prone colleague Abou Diaby using spare parts from Sanogo; such parallels were easy to draw.
But a goal in the 28th minute against Benfica—albeit an ailing, flagging, weakened Benfica—was enough to ignite the confidence we've been vying for. The three goals that followed were all borne from the fact he'd broken his duck.
His first contribution to the game saw him interchange with Joel Campbell on the right and surge down the flank, but his pass infield was aimless, poor and close to no one. He threw his arms in the air, frustrated with his teammates, but it was all on him. It was poor pass.
Three goals later, and he's taking on one, two, three Benfica defenders, entering the box and crossing for the opposite winger. The difference in his game from the 16th and 66th minute was astonishing, and his link-up play continued to grow.
This is the Sanogo French football experts saw when he was a mere 16-year-old trainee—the prospect we saw before he was forced to contemplate quitting the sport for a job in his parents' post office.
Finally, his legs are catching up with his brain.
That he was able to steal the limelight, headlines and column inches on a day that taught Wenger so much for myriad reasons is incredible. Hector Bellerin's wicked showing, Campbell's fantastic performance and Aaron Ramsey's continuation of form will be buried under talk of this polarising Frenchman.
"Sanogo was injured for two years before he came to us. If you look at his goalscoring record before he got injured...it's quite frightening," Wenger told the media in the post-match press conference. "He didn't score last year, but it was more a mental block."
Typically, the Frenchman left the game with a slight hamstring strain to his right leg, pouring a little cold water over what was, emphatically, an incredible afternoon's work.
As long as he recovers and keeps his confidence, he can be an option for Wenger. With Joel staying for the season and Alexis primed for a central role, the Gunners are set to enter the 2014-15 campaign with true depth up front.