Arsenal swoop for Sanogo - but is another young star really the solution?
Dan Mobbs discusses the imminent arrival of France youth international Yaya Sanogo, who has already proclaimed himself to be an Arsenal player.
“Today I am an Arsenal player,” he proudly proclaimed – but Yaya Sanogo is not one of the many household names who have been rumoured to be on the way to Arsenal following Ivan Gazidis’ announcement that £70million is to be made available to Arsene Wenger this summer.
Real Madrid’s Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain and Manchester United’s wantaway striker Wayne Rooney have both been touted as potential Gunners signings, after the chief executive promised there are funds for a “big summer” of spending.
However, old habits seemingly die hard. Who knows, stellar signings may be just around the corner, but Sanogo’s arrival looks like a continuation of Wenger’s tendency to lean on his scouting network and find a cheaper alternative to the established internationals, who are snapped up by Arsenal’s rivals.
Increasingly under pressure to match the grand spending of their Champions League competitors, Wenger has remained steadfast in his approach to the transfer market, which can be characterised by the signing of the promising Sanogo.
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The 20-year-old France youth international will arrive at Arsenal from Auxerre once his contract expires with the Ligue 2 side in July. He made only eight appearances for the French club, scoring once.
The arrival of the 6ft 2ins forward is likely to signal the end of Marouane Chamakh’s disappointing three-year stay at Arsenal following his move from Bordeaux in 2010, having spent the second half of last season on loan as a substitute for West Ham.
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Nicklas Bendtner is another fringe player who is expected to be departing Arsenal, after a disappointing loan spell at Serie A champions Juventus failed to trigger a return to form, which has seemingly deserted him in recent seasons.
Having shown promise in the French second tier, Sanogo can now look forward to fighting for his place with established international players such as Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski.
It is a challenge for a player who suffered a serious leg injury two years ago, which threatened to curtail his career before it had really begun.
“I wanted to stop,” he said of his rehabilitation. “I told myself it was useless to go on and to imperil my health. I could not run any longer. I had too much pain, the doctors didn’t know what to do. But one day I went for a jog and, step by step, I made my way back.”
After making a return to first- team action and attracting the attention of Arsenal scout and former Gunner Gilles Grimandi, the opportunity to link up with Wenger proved too tempting to turn down – despite interest from Lille in his native France.
“I told my agent the choice would be made between these two clubs,” said Sanogo. “Lille’s coach Rudi Garcia called me all the time. I hesitated a lot.
“Gilles Grimandi came to see me from time to time at Auxerre too. One day he called me for a meeting in a Paris hotel and Arsene Wenger was there. I was very impressed.”
Playing alongside a team of established internationals, Sanogo can expect to feature sparingly in the first team during his debut Premier League season.
However, assurances from Wenger have left him optimistic of his playing chances, which could be confined to the Capital One Cup until he proves his worth.
“Wenger told me I would get opportunities and reassured me about my injury,” said the player. “He told me he had followed me for years. That meeting was very important and today I am an Arsenal player.
“It will be an amazing adventure. I am just eager to start in one of the best leagues in the world. It is a dream that has come true.”
While Wenger will be pleased to have secured the young star’s signature, disgruntled fans may yet have their say if highly-regarded internationals do not arrive at the Emirates as a statement of the club’s intent to win that increasingly elusive trophy.
Wenger may have made an early move in the transfer market, but it has done little to answer the big questions – whether he is ready to spend the big bucks, and whether his continued reliance on developing young players can restore Arsenal to their former glory.