Saturday, December 14, 2019
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Arsenal’s striker shortage exposed

London: So, to recap. In the most difficult game of Arsenal’s season, against the team that Arsene Wenger agreed were the best in the world, the manager decided to drop Olivier Giroud, his regular number nine, and enlist Yaya Sanogo as his replacement.

This took the notion of the fiery baptism to new temperatures. Sanogo, the Bosman free transfer arrival from Auxerre last July, had 127 minutes of football behind him in an Arsenal shirt. He joined with the reputation for being injury-prone and he has been unavailable for almost all of the season so far because of a back problem. Until his full debut against Liverpool in the FA Cup win here last Sunday, the 21-year-old striker had virtually dropped off the radar.

Sanogo is an under-20 world champion with France and it is perhaps worth remembering what Wenger said about him upon his arrival last summer when, for so long and at a time of those loud calls for A-list investment in the squad, he was the only new signing.

“Sanogo will surprise you,” Wenger said. “He has not made the headlines. Why? Because he is not £50-100 million but I am quite confident he will make them soon on the pitch and, for me, that is the most important.”

Sanogo’s very selection made waves, coming as it did against the backdrop of Giroud’s marriage crisis, which was sparked by the Sun’s story about him sneaking a girl into the Arsenal hotel on the night before the Crystal Palace game on February 2.

Sanogo will tell the grandchildren about the night that he led the line against the mighty Bayern Munich and, when Arsenal started at a blazing tempo, there was the moment when the fairytale almost played out. Following a seventh minute scramble, the ball broke to him inside the area and, almost in slow motion, he fired his shot at goal. Manuel Neuer saved. It was impossible not to smile and thousands of Arsenal supporters duly did.

But Bayern are not the types to accommodate the plucky underdog and Sanogo was not to have his day. The game passed him by from about the 25th minute and, if his evening was summed up by the yellow card that he received for chasing down, but catching, Neuer in the 55th minute, Arsenal’s fans were left to wonder how they could have entered a knock-out tie against the European champions with an untested rookie up front.

They have relied upon the robustness of Giroud, almost exclusively, for the entire season but this felt like the night when their lack of depth in the position finally came back to bite them.

— Guardian News and Media Limited