Yaya Sanogo's curious career: Former Arsenal hopeful hampered by injuries, expectation and bad moves

Yaya Sanogo finds himself at Huddersfield after a curious career path which has seen him hampered by injuries and expectation at Arsenal, Ajax and beyond - watch Huddersfield vs Cardiff live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm on Friday night; kick-off 7.45pm

Yaya Sanogo - Then and Now

For fans of a legendary football-management simulation game, Yaya Sanogo was a famous name before he had even made his senior debut for Auxerre in 2009.

Highly-rated by Arsene Wenger, he was whisked to north London as a 20-year-old to join Arsenal in the Premier League. But it didn't work out for him at the Emirates.

Stints on loan at Crystal Palace, Ajax and Charlton followed before a move back to France with Toulouse. He departed them at the end of his contract last season, and now finds himself back in England on a short-term basis at Huddersfield, aged 28 and trying to resurrect his fortunes after nearly a year without a club.

Live EFL

Here, with the help of journalists and fans, we chart a curious career that once promised so much but was hampered by expectation, injury and some unfortunate moves at the wrong time...

The Arsenal move - 'A gamble that didn't pay off'

Arsenal's Yaya Sanogo celebrates with team mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (left) after scoring his third and thier side's fourth goal of the game during the Emirates Cup match at The Emirates Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 2, 2014. See PA story SOCCER Arsenal. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Image: Sanogo with Arsenal team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

It wasn't exactly a rarity for Wenger to scout the best young talent from France and bring them to north London, and in July 2013 Sanogo left Auxerre and penned a long-term contract with Arsenal.

"Sanogo is a good young signing for us," said the Gunners boss at the time. "He has shown he has potential with his recent performances for Auxerre and also for the France Under-20 side. We are looking forward to Yaya joining us and continuing his promising development."

Here we were, looking at a 6ft3 striker with a great record for Auxerre and a remarkable record for France's youth teams. It looked a coup for Arsenal, but for a variety of reasons it never quite worked out for him.

Also See:

Image: Sanogo celebrates with Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez

"Hopes were high for him in north London," Sky Sports journalist and Arsenal fan Oliver Yew says. "This was a young player full of promise and raw talent, and probably a gamble worth taking. He was nominated for the Golden Boy award in 2013, and possessed the physical attributes needed for the Premier League. He was integrated into the first team straight away, making his competitive debut after coming off the bench in a 3-1 win at Fulham.

"But then injuries struck and began to hamper him, and ultimately his career, at the Emirates. In the end he made just 20 first-team appearances in four years.

Image: Sanogo lifting the FA Cup in in 2014

"He did play in some big matches for the club, though. His first start came as a bit of a shock in a 2-1 win against Liverpool in the FA Cup, and a few days later he led the line against Bayern Munich in a last-16 match in the Champions League. Later that season he played the full 120 minutes as Arsenal edged past Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final, before coming off the bench in the final to help the club end their nine-year trophy drought, beating Hull 3-2 in extra-time at Wembley.

"Goals may have been lacking at that point, but it did seem like it would only be a matter of time before they arrived. He scored four goals in a pre-season friendly against Benfica, then started the 2014 Community Shield, as Arsenal beat Manchester City 3-0.

Arsenal's Yaya Sanogo celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Emirates Cup match at The Emirates Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 2, 2014. See PA story SOCCER Arsenal. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Image: Sanogo celebrates scoring in a pre-season game for Arsenal

"But his only competitive goal for the club came in a 2-0 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund, and things stalled for him soon after that. There were some loan moves to try and get him to reach his potential, but eventually he was released in 2017.

"Ultimately injuries got in the way of him being a success at Arsenal. There was fleeting moments, both good and bad, which have made him something of a cult figure in the club's history."

The loan moves: Palace, Ajax & Charlton

Image: Sanogo in action for Crystal Palace in the Championship

As mentioned, there were times when Wenger sent him out on loan in a bid to get him going. First there was a loan move to Crystal Palace that yielded no goals in 10 Premier League appearances, but one in the FA Cup.

"It was a bit of a strange one," Daily Mail journalist and Crystal Palace fan Ben Nagle says. "He arrived at the club having not had much of a chance at Arsenal and was fairly highly-rated, but he didn't really get much of a chance to play with us either.

"He scored very early on in an FA Cup game away at Southampton - in which Marouane Chamakh scored, too - and then started a few games without doing too much.

"After that he dropped out of the team and only really got a few minutes off the bench here and there. If I had to sum him up in one word from his time at Palace it would probably be 'clumsy'. He was quite erratic and raw, very pacy but ultimately probably not good enough for the Premier League."

The following season, 2015/16, he tried his luck in a season-long loan at Ajax. Again there was pre-season promise as he scored a hat-trick in a friendly, but he eventually failed to score in six appearances for the Dutch giants, and three more for their reserve side. It was also during these early loans when the rather unfortunate nickname 'Yaya Sonogoals' was born.

Image: Sanogo in action during his loan spell at Ajax

Sanogo returned to Arsenal halfway through his loan spell and then moved to Charlton in the Championship. His only goals in eight appearances came as a hat-trick against Reading, a game they eventually lost 4-3. He also couldn't help the Addicks avoid relegation to League One that season.

"When anyone signs you hope they will be a success and give them a clean slate," Sky Sports digital journalist and Charlton fan Charlotte Marsh says. "We had brought in Francis Coquelin previously and he came on leaps and bounds with us, before being recalled by Arsenal due to their injury crisis and becoming a first-team regular.

"So there was a bit of history there for us to be hopeful, but with a striker you want and expect goals. He started off well with the hat-trick against Reading, even if we lost, and performed well in the next game against Brentford, assisting a goal in a much-needed win.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 09:  Yaya Sanogo of Charlton Athletic wins a header during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Charlton Athletic at Loftus Road on April 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
Image: Sanogo in action for Charlton in the Championship

"But then he got sent off against MK Dons and his form never recovered. He started one more game before picking up a calf injury which kept him out of the last two games of the season, but we had been relegated by then.

"You have to wonder if things would have been different if he had managed to continue the early promise he showed, but he wasn't helped by the tumultuous issues at Charlton at the time. We had three different managers that season, with only one in Jose Riga possessing a slither of Championship experience.

"Even if Sanogo had been a Sano-goal machine, there was so much going on behind the scenes and he simply couldn't help save us. He could well have turned out to be a good player for us in the Championship, he just came to the club at the wrong time."

Back to France with Toulouse

The expiration of his contract at Arsenal saw him move back to France and join Toulouse in 2017. His three seasons in Ligue 1 proved to be the best of his career. He netted 16 in 72 in all competitions for the struggling club, but injuries again hindered his progress.

"Yaya was still known in France as a very exciting young talent, but of course by the time he returned from England expectations were not so high," French football expert and author of 'Sacré Bleu - from Zidane to Mbappé, a football journey' Matt Spiro tells Sky Sports. "There was some hope that if he could stay fit, play regularly and settle at a club, he might belatedly start to fulfil the promise many saw in him as a boy.

"But he never managed to become the imposing centre-forward that Toulouse hoped he would. He worked hard in training and in matches when given the opportunity, and could always keep opposition defenders occupied with his physical presence. He was, however, rarely clinical in front of goal. And, as has been the case throughout his career, injuries frequently disrupted his progress.

Image: Sanogo enjoyed a relatively successful spell at Toulouse

"One moment that stood in my mind, though, was a brilliant goal against Monaco in 2017/18 in a great comeback for Toulouse. They were 3-1 down late on and he took the late equaliser brilliantly, controlling a cross from the right, then swivelling and shooting past the goalkeeper in one movement. It was a glimpse of what he is capable of, but we didn't see enough of his glimpses."

Once again, it may also have been a case of Sanogo arriving at a club at the wrong time.

"Toulouse had gone stale," Spiro continues. "The fans were disillusioned and attendances were very low. They were fighting relegation for much of Yaya's time there, so it was hard for anyone - not just him - to shine in those circumstances.

"But he was popular among the fans because he was an honest, hard-working player. He was also well-liked in the dressing room, he trained well and was extremely professional throughout his time there."

Sanogo lands at Huddersfield - can he make his mark?

Now, after nearly a season without a club, Sanogo finds himself back in England and back in the Championship with Huddersfield.

"I think he can still make an impression in the Championship," says Spiro. "It will just be a case of him staying fit and playing a run of matches. When he is fit he is surprisingly mobile, prepared to work hard in the press and run the channels.

"He gets into good positions and has the knack for scoring the types of goals he did as a boy, and with his size he will always cause defences problems."

He has made two late substitute appearances so far as he builds up his fitness, but a side that has spent the last couple of months struggling for form and drifting towards the relegation zone will be hoping he makes an impact soon.

"Town came into the season with two strikers, Fraizer Campbell and Danny Ward, and Ward has had a series of recurrent injury problems that have kept him out of the starting line-up for most of the campaign," Yorkshire Live's Huddersfield Town writer Steven Chicken tells Sky Sports.

"The big criticism of Town even during the good early spell of the season was that they lacked a Plan B, but couldn't get a deal done for another striker in January because the budget wouldn't allow it. Deadline Day was not a good look for the club either, with fans unhappy that they were unable to get another striker in. It left the club looking at free agents, with Sanogo and [former Everton striker] Oumar Niasse both linked, with Sanogo eventually joining late last month.

"Huddersfield definitely need a striker like him. Last year they had Steve Mounie as back-up to Campbell off the bench, and Sanogo is a similar player who can play with his back to goal and get on the end of crosses.

"He's not the most obvious fit for Corberan's style, but there have been games when he's wanted to beat the opposition press by playing a bit more direct, and he has said we will see a slightly more direct style between now and the end of the season.

"I don't think anyone is expecting him to score a goal a game, but he can help bring more out of the likes of Juninho Bacuna and help create goalscoring chances. Isaac Mbenza is also an excellent crosser, so giving someone for him to aim at would be useful. For that, Sanogo could be a perfect fit."

Sanogo is still just 28, and it would be wonderful now to see the best of a striker that turned up at Arsenal nearly a decade ago promising so much.

Win £250,000 on Wednesday!

Win £250,000 on Wednesday!

Do not miss your chance to land the £250,000 in Wednesday's Super 6 round. Play for free, entries by 6:00pm.

Around Sky