Having joined the Gunners as a promising youngster in 2013, a series of injuries and ill-fated loans spoiled the Frenchman’s time in north London
Former Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo has admitted that he was “not a phenomenon” and that expectation exceeded reality during the early days of his career.
Sanogo joined Arsenal in 2013 having caught the eye of Arsene Wenger while playing for Auxerre in Ligue 2. He had already established a reputation as an exciting young talent in his home country, having been prolific with France’s youth teams as a teenager.
Sanogo showed glimmers of promise during his first season with Arsenal and, while he failed to score, he made 14 appearances in all competitions and gave an influential cameo appearance as Wenger’s side triumphed against Hull in the FA Cup final and won their first silverware for almost a decade. His lack of goals soon became a millstone around his neck, however, and a combination of injuries and two unhappy spells on loan at Crystal Palace and Ajax hampered his career.
Speaking to France Football, Sanogo admitted that his loans were not well planned and ultimately damaged his chances at Arsenal. “I asked him [Arsene Wenger] to go on loan,” he said of his temporary switch to Palace in 2015. “He told me [I could go] a little later, but I think he was disappointed. He accepted it with difficulty. It was ‘okay’, but he was not very happy.
“It bubbled in me. I wanted to go on loan. It’s not that I wanted to leave, but I wanted to play more. Hence my lack of patience. I went into the total unknown at clubs where I did not know if the coaches really wanted me. That is when I saw how the loans were going. I did not handle it well.
“He told me not to go on loan. But, you know, when you are 20 or 21 years old… you do not know, you just want to play. You do not know how the world of football works yet. You do not have the codes yet. So, it happened like it happened.
“And then there were the injuries. When you’re there just for a loan, they do not consider you the same. And then you’re not especially good when you are given the opportunity.”
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Sanogo now plays for Toulouse in Ligue 1, where he has scored three goals in eight appearances this season. Almost 27, he recalls being hailed as the future of the French national team back when he was a teenager with a degree of exasperation.
“Frankly, the press builds up who it wants!” he said. “I did not choose that. I did not tell them to write my name. I did not ask for anything. I heard, I saw some things. But I told myself that I did not control anything. You cannot control it.
“For me, I was not a phenomenon, in the sense that I just did my job.”