Arsenal made the first significant move of the transfer window with Yaya Sanogo officially joining Crystal Palace on loan until the end of the season. It’s a move which strengthens our forward line or so the basic premiss of the cruel jokes go. It’s no-lose for the player; if he does well, he comes back to Arsenal with confidence – perhaps even a millstone removed – or, more likely, a permanent move at the end of the season. If it doesn’t go well, he comes back to Arsenal…
There is something odd about Crystal Palace. Despite the changes in manager, their resolve to sign forwards who weren’t – or aren’t – good enough for the first team, is undiminished; unshakeable. They signed Chamakh, were a stroke of the pen away from nabbing Bendtner and now Sanogo. All the while, the talented forwards from Arsenal waft into the Championship or below.
It shows how much we, the supporters, know about football when the likes of Afobe are more highly rated yet the Frenchman is the one everyone seems to want. Or Palace do anyway. Quite what their faithful make of it, I know not but on the two or three sites I looked at, the word ‘hope’ featured quite heavily.
Sanogo’s time thus far at Arsenal has been unproductive save for one goal against Dortmund. No matter whether you believe he has potential, a player that raw should not be leading Arsenal’s attack in the Premier or Champions Leagues, instead learning his trade on loan or in domestic cup matches.
In that sense, I have sympathy for Sanogo. What was he supposed to do with one of England’s top clubs on his trail – turn down a dream move? Who in their right mind would refuse such an opportunity? It was and remains a questionable deal on Arsène’s part.
Squad building is a key element of the manager’s role and the results of that are almost always contrary to the wishes of supporters. We will pass judgement on the players more readily than Arsène or whomever is in charge, fans always have and always will. The basis of that changes from person to person just to confuse matters more. And more whimsically in a lot of cases.
But forwards and goalkeepers are expected to turn matches. In defence and midfield, it is easier for the manager to stock his squad with unsung players, those on the fringes of international football, perhaps comfortable with the knowledge that they are not destined to win a regular starting line-up place for their countries.
A player such as Nacho Monreal now, or going back further the likes of Davis and Richardson in the Graham era. That pair were first choice in a title-winning side, an unlikely scenario now but what we wouldn’t give for players of their calibre to be squad players now. Perhaps Coquelin can develop into that level, that type of ‘reserve’.
If votes were cast for the club’s Player of the Season now, Alexis would win very comfortably. Monreal however, might well feature in the places; he has been the most consistent of any other squad member. Perhaps he is helped by expectations being low and that certainly was the case when he covered in the centre of defence. Nonetheless, he had to produce the performances and played as well as anyone could have asked.
Put a similar player into the forward line? Not a chance, the reaction to Sanogo tells you how that would be received. Forwards are under pressure from the moment they cross the line, required to score regularly. Fail and even the callowness of youth will not save a player’s reputation. It’s a question of footballing philosophy as to whether a youngster should be put in that position but the footballing cliché of “If he’s good enough, he’s old enough“, never fades away.
It is by no means an easy task assessing the readiness of a player. Around the time of signing for Arsenal, Sanogo played for the French at the U20 World Cup. He did well, scored four times and looked like he had potential. His credentials as a long-term prospect ticked the boxes; he had been through the Clarefontaine Academy. But so had Jérémie Aliadière.
Sanogo was signed as back-up with longevity a secondary thought. And it were, in that sense, an act of folly, of resoundingly poor judgement. He has been unlucky, of course, with injuries, woodwork and collective poor form. and in time, he may realise his potential but he was not the answer that Arsenal needed at the time.
As a consequence of Arsène’s decisions, it will take a monumental transformation in form for the initial years of his time at the club to be forgotten. I hope Sanogo goes on to have a great career and if it is at Arsenal, I am sure success will taste all the sweeter for him.
Elsewhere, Arsenal have reportedly agreed a deal with Legia for Krystian Bielik, begun negotiations with Dortmund over Ilkay Gundogan which may or may not be influenced by Chuba Akpom and are watching Hector Montero of Espanyol whose sole criteria for media interest seems to be ill-fortune when it comes to injury, having just recovered from a broken leg.
Reports also suggest that contact has been made with The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen with Arsène looking to sign two players for the price of one; Edward Hyde as a cultured central defender whilst Dr Henry Jekyll will satisfy demands for a beast of a defensive midfielder.