Leicester City 1 Arsenal 1: Yaya Sanogo leaves Arsene Wenger with little choice
When a striker sets an unwanted Premier League record for the season so far with seven shots without a goal, what next for Arsenal in the final hours of the transfer window? Principles or ambition?
“If we are judging them on getting third or fourth place, then Arsenal might not have a problem. But if we are judging them in terms of targeting a title, which I think is where Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans are at, then they are going to have to sign a centre forward.”
Those were the words of Sky Sports expert Gary Neville before the most recent weekend in the Premier League and they echoed opinions around football. After Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Leicester City, they are also views which are unlikely to have changed.
Even before Olivier Giroud’s ankle injury, which is expected to rule the striker out until January, Arsenal’s critics have suggested they looked short of attacking options, with just Yaya Sanogo or Joel Campbell left as realistic replacements.
“Sanogo is a guy who has not scored in 17 games since he has played for Arsenal. Does that tell you he is prolific? Absolutely not.”
On the evidence against Leicester, which did come after a tiring and nerve-shredding UEFA Champions League play-off, that is probably a worrying prospect for Arsenal, particualrly as previous reported target Loic Remy joined Chelsea at the same time on Sunday afternoon.
Wenger has always said he will not panic buy players unless they meet his particular criteria and that is an admirable stance which continued after the final whistle at the King Power Stadium. But, following the game, there also seemed to be a slight change of policy.
When asked if he had been interested in signing Remy, Wenger told Sky Sports: “I do not want to speak about individual cases. We are very active.”
Alexis Sanchez celebrates with Sanogo after scoring Arsenal’s goal at the King Power Stadium
The reason Arsenal are ‘very active’ as the hours tick down to Monday’s 11pm transfer deadline may be the performance of Sanogo at Leicester. Including his slightly bumbling role in the build up to Alexis Sanchez’s goal, it was a difficult afternoon for last summer’s signing from Auxerre as the central, lone striker.
Arsenal lack quality up front
Indeed, Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp said of Arsenal after the match versus Leicester: “I actually feel they are short [of strikers] even if Giroud was not injured. I think this is an area where they [strikers] win you football matches. There is so much pressure now on Sanogo, [with] Arsene Wenger [in the past] saying, ‘he can be my main man’. He [Sanogo] is a guy who has not scored in 17 games since he has played for Arsenal. Does that tell you he is prolific? Absolutely not.”
Injuries have disrupted 21-year-old Sanogo’s development since moving from France and he is raw but his performance against last season’s Championship title winners, Leicester, left fans venting their frustration on social media.
The potential for Wenger to once again work his magic and develop Sanogo in the long term cannot be dismissed; the forward will need to be encouraged to show more appetite in the penalty area for starters. However, when he left the field after 77 minutes on Sunday, he had been given seven opportunities to shoot, hit the target just twice and failed to score.
Yaya Sanogo did not touch the ball enough in the penalty area (left) and wasted his shots (right)
Seven shots by a single player in a match without scoring is a record in the Premier League this season and, along with the clumsy manner he ran offside on a couple of occasions – much to Wenger’s visible frustration on the touchline, underlines his rookie status.
Arsenal’s overall wastefulness in front of goal can also not be ignored in the absence of a clinical finisher. In the first half alone at Leicester, Wenger’s team racked up 15 shots, which was more than they managed in full matches versus Crystal Palace (14) and Everton (13), respectively, earlier this season.
Wenger: ‘We did not create enough’
Sanchez, who plays as a wide forward and is unlikely to lead the line too often, scored Arsenal’s only goal but, at the final whistle, Wenger’s players had attempted a massive 24 shots, more than they had in any Premier League game last season, only to hit the target with just six.
Not only that but a combined total of 19 chances created in return for that solitary goal points to another less than convincing conversion rate.
Leicester boss Nigel Pearson summed it up after the final whistle when he said: “Statistics are always an interesting one in the sense that, I do not know how many attempts they [Arsenal] had but we did not feel particularly threatened. I do not know how many are on target but we did feel a lot of the chances they maybe had a bit of a punt at were from distance and we had a lot of pressure on the ball.”
Wenger will always stick to his principles but his actions regarding his goalscoring options before Monday night may say more about Arsenal’s ambitions.