Wednesday 03 July 2013
In Yaya Sanogo Arsenal have acquired an athletic forward who is a "tall, quick, great all-round striker" according to French football expert James Eastham.
Following confirmation of Arsene Wenger's first signing of the summer on Monday Premierleague.com spoke to Eastham, who acts as a scout in France and who writes various columns on Ligue 1. Eastham has been aware of the 20-year-old's talent for several years and provides an intriguing insight into a player with a reputation for being the "best-ever product from the Auxerre youth system", who scored his first goal as an Arsenal player at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Tuesday night and who has scored three goals in four matches for France at the finals in Turkey.
What sort of player is Sanogo?
James Eastham: He is very tall and athletic and quick. He's been talked about as a great prospect since he was 15 or 16. He's had injury problems over the past couple of years, including a broken leg. It got to the point where, in his words, he was not sure whether he might be able to continue in the game.
"Sanogo has all the athletic and physical qualities you look for and is a good finisher"
After a year out he came back midway through the season just finished and was excellent. He's a great all-round striker. He has all the athletic and physical qualities you look for and is a good finisher.
He is also very good with his back to goal. I saw him for France Under-20s against Portugal in February and what stood out for me was how good he was coming away from the penalty area. He held the ball up very well with great use of his upper body and holding off defenders. He also laid off the ball very well so he is more than just a goalscorer, like Ian Wright, he is more broad than that.
He's only played in the Ligue 2 and was in Ligue 1 with Auxerre but did not have a good run of games, partly because of his young age, partly through injuries. But he has always done well at youth level for France and the French Federation has always had him in mind as one of their best prospects. He's just been unlucky with injuries.
So Wenger is partly buying him on potential but you can see why he did it because of his performances in the second half of the season. He got four goals in one match, against Laval, all in 17 minutes and he'd only been back fit after a year out for six weeks.
What sort of systems has he played in?
JE: He has played with two wide men, pretty much alone at the top, with Olivier Kapo, the former Wigan player, or a similar player just off him and he has looked comfortable there.
Is he a good header of the ball?
JE: From what I have seen most of the crosses that have come to him have been low, so there is not much evidence of that. He is more ball to feet and when the ball is in the air it is mainly with his back to goal, playing it out wide and crosses coming in low.
Who would be a player to whom you could accurately compare Sanogo?
JE: He is not like Thierry Henry. He is not a player who bursts in from wide areas. I have not seen him steaming away from people with pure pace. He is more a central player than Henry was at the same age. You might say Nicolas Anelka but he was a one-on-one player who gets in on the goalkeeper and finishes coolly. He is a bit different, because of the back-to-school element. He is still untested.
What about his mentality?
JE: I have heard only good reports about him. It has been difficult for him because he has almost been forgotten. I first heard of him when he was 16 and then the view was that Auxerre, who have historically had a good youth system, had got their best-ever product from the system. But because of the injuries, he virtually disappeared and Auxerre initially would not extend his contract this summer because of this. So there has not been too much talk about his attitude because he has been too busy getting fit and to have done so at this age is a massive credit to him because it must have been very difficult.
You can follow James Eastham on Twitter at @james_eastham