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In defense of Yaya Sanogo

Sanogo is being made the butt of jokes by the fans and media alike for things that are beyond his control.

Michael Regan

Yaya Sanogo is not good enough currently to be Arsenal's starting striker. He might not even be good enough right now to be the reserve striker. This means that when he plays, for all of his boundless energy and effort, he clearly seems out of place at the top level -- failing to score and struggling at times to adapt to the speed of play. Mix this with the impatience of the fans and the omnipresent social media influence and what you have is Sanogo being lambasted with vitriol after every bad performance and many times, after the odd tweet. These attacks usually involve some form of calling him "SaNOgoals," poking fun at a previous failed scoring chance, and the always problematic one, telling him that he should be practicing instead of tweeting -- which is an absurd notion for many reasons, one being that the fans are assuming dominion over the player's time.

The anger seems misplaced since Sanogo is hardly responsible for his predicament. It is for one, bizarre to be angry at his talent level. It's as if you're asking him to not exist as himself, to be someone else. He can only work with what he has, and though his ceiling could potentially be high, he's still learning. Talent is a flower that must be watered during every practice, game, and film session in order for it to grow. It takes time, plain and simple, and asking a seed why it is not already a flower on your command is not really the fault of the plant but a sign of your own petulance.

Furthermore, Sanogo who is 21 now, almost retired less than four years ago. After suffering a broken leg in September of 2010, he was hampered by knee issues (in true Arsenal fashion), forcing the then-teenager to consider hanging up his small boy boots. Speaking on his injury, Sanogo laments,

At that time, I was all alone. You say to yourself: "But I can't even run." I said to myself it was finished. I had made a lot of sacrifices.

This is all before the youngster even turned 19! Combined with the fact that he was playing his club football at Auxerre in Ligue 2 before joining Arsenal, the context starts to illuminate the unfairness of the criticism that he receives.

Yet the boy wonder has done reasonably well for Arsenal since his transfer. After making his debut against Fulham last season, he went through another dispiriting period as he suffered a back injury while with the French U21 side in September of 2013. He came back to make his first start against Liverpool during the 2-1 victory in the FA Cup; showing his promise with tremendous running, his strength in holding up the ball, and willingness to link up with his midfielders. It was a performance that was praised by manager and pundits alike. He was also instrumental in the FA Cup final victory against Hull City, as his introduction for Lukas Podolski changed the game and put Arsenal in the ascendancy; once again thanks to his running, power and while hardly scoring, his willingness to shoot and chances created from the rebounds.

Starting this season, he has done well in preseason; scoring a ludicrous four goals against Benfica while playing well against Manchester City before being subbed off at halftime in the 3-0 Community Shield victory. But it still stands that Sanogo should essentially not be so far into the spotlight as he is now, because while it helps his development greatly, it also puts him front and center in the view of the media and irate fans.We have seen what rejection from the fans can do to a player's confidence and being that confidence is instrumental to how well an athlete performs, this could spell trouble for such a young and promising center forward.

Most of the reason for his current inadequacy is obviously out of his control: he can't be held responsible for his injuries and the troubles that followed from them, nor can he be blamed for being inserted into the starting line up so quickly. The question then is why after knowing his troubles was he put in a no-win situation? Arriving at Arsenal, he was automatically behind Giroud on the striker depth chart since Lukas Podolski is either stationed out in the left, the bench or being subbed out in the 60th minute for being ineffective, and Nicklas Bendtner was too busy humping taxis to concentrate on football. A 21 year old, who almost retired at before his 19th birthday and made his living in Ligue 2 was bound to struggle in that situation.

The good news is that Sanogo is taking everything in stride. The same determination and perseverance that propelled him to continue pushing and playing after his leg fracture has him boisterously proclaiming about the criticism from the fans: "It's their problem if they criticize me. I'll still be here. I'm going to play, improve and score goals. Sooner or later, it's going to go in."

Though in the same interview, he admits that he arrived at Arsenal on one leg and that it had taken him six months to adapt, things that are again seemingly out of his control. So, in the end it seems a bit asinine to criticize the young striker for not doing better as a lone forward for Arsenal considering his previous and recent problems. He may not be great as of now but the sky is the limit and his bullish attitude to push on should make him more of a cult hero than the butt of jokes that he's being threatened with.