Yaya Sanogo Performance Against Leicester Shows Arsenal Still Need a New Striker

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Yaya Sanogo of Arsenal is challenged by Liam Moore of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Arsenal at The King Power Stadium on August 31, 2014 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2014

Arsene Wenger is insistent he has enough strikers to see him through the season. However, during the 1-1 draw with Premier League newcomers Leicester, Arsenal failed to show the expected attacking threat. On this evidence, Wenger would be well-advised to make a move before deadline day to recruit a new forward.

The Gunners are currently without their customary centre-forward, Olivier Giroud, after the news that the Frenchman will be out until the new year with an ankle injury. In midweek, Wenger deployed new boy Alexis Sanchez through the middle. That experiment seemed relatively successful, with Sanchez scoring the winning goal and delivering an all-action display in the lone striker's role.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal goes past Andy King of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Arsenal at The King Power Stadium on August 31, 2014 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Lau
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

However, to some surprise, Wenger switched the Chilean back to the flank at Leicester. In the middle, he opted for young target man Yaya Sanogo. The Arsenal boss is insistent that Sanogo is a player of great potential and seems keen to afford him as much playing time as possible in order to further his development.

Nevertheless, Sanogo is patently not ready for the demands of top-flight football. Although he has a good physique and plenty of natural power, Sanogo's technical level still appears to be well below that of his team-mates. His primary contribution to the match was an assist, but even that came about by accident; he miscued when through on goal, only for Sanchez to pounce on the loose ball to give the Gunners the lead.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Yaya Sanogo of Arsenal stretches for the ball with Dean Hammond of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Arsenal at The King Power Stadium on August 31, 2014 in Leicester, Englan
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Sanogo spent most of the match looking hopelessly out of his element. If he wasn’t being caught offside, he was mishandling the ball and interrupting Arsenal’s approach play. 

It’s not his fault that his flaws are being so cruelly exposed on the big stage. It’s Wenger’s. Sanogo is not prepared to play regularly for Arsenal, and yet he is. He is being thrust into the limelight before he is ready.

Arsenal fans would be wrong to write him off entirely. When Wenger spots talent in a young player, he is invariably proved right. The example of Alex Song will live long in the memory. As a teenager, Song was booed off by his own fans after a dismal performance at Fulham. He went on to be sold to the best club side in the world, Barcelona.

However, Song did not learn all his lessons in the Arsenal first team. He was sent out on loan to Charlton and was then a fringe member of the squad for several seasons. Sanogo is being thrown in too deep, too soon.

In the immediate aftermath of Giroud’s injury, Wenger claimed he had enough firepower to cover for the Frenchman’s absence. Against Leicester, such claims looked hugely unrealistic. During the course of the 90 minutes, the central striking berth was filled by the ungainly Sanogo and later the unimpressive Lukas Podolski. The decision to field Podolski there was particularly startling, given that just days ago Wenger had told Jack Pitt-Brooke of The Independent:

He is not a real centre-forward. He is a striker on the flank or behind the striker, but he is not the target man. He has a role to play, but he likes to come to the ball, he is not the guy who likes to go behind. I see Sanogo and Sanchez as players who are really good at going behind, not Podolski.

The window is open for another 24 hours. There is still time for Arsene Wenger to sign the “real centre-forward” his squad obviously needs.


James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2014/15 season. Follow him on Twitter here.

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