03 August 2014

Nuts to Costa, Suarez, or Messi. We have Yaya.

Pick up the prayer-books. The fat lady has sung. The case closed. We can put this one to bed. And so on. In little more than 24 minutees, Yaya Sanogo has put to an emphatic end any debate over who will be the Prem's top striker. Heck, at the rate he's set, he'll be Europe's top striker. There is simply no way to overstate or exaggerate the lad's quality or potential after that display against Benfica; plain and simple, the only conclusion to be drawn is that it proves once and for all that our striker-needs have been filled, and the only real question is how many league goals will Sanogo get. Thirty seems modest. Forty feels a minimum. Fifty? Perhaps more of a dare.

Let's stop there. What we saw was a jaw-dropping spectacle, no doubt, but it's not one from which we can draw many conclusions. It seemed at times as if Benfica were literally outmanned. Each goal—four from Sanogo plus one more from Campbell—offered thrilling glimpses of what could be if our youthful, callow players make good on our hopes for them (include Bellerin and Chambers for good measure...).
Stealing the headlines, of course, was Sanogo, but in the long run, it's anyone's guess who among them will emerge as a star.

Sanogo opened his account with a goal in the 26th minute that looked at first like a parody of scoring a goal, bundling home a pass from Ramsey that found him just about four yards from goal. It looked clumsy and ungainly, and it seemed to mock Sanogo more than glorify him. A closer look reveals that he did put a decent touch on the ball, flicking it in rather cleverly and then getting tripped by the keeper.
Campbell's goal in the 40th minute offered much more of the highlight-worthy quality one might hope for, as Bellerin picked him out with a brilliant cross, one that Campbell volleyed home sharply from just inside the 18, skipping it back across and in, making up for a few sitters he would miss in an otherwise clever performance. However, it was all Sanogo from there. In the 45th minute, he found himself absolutely wide open at the top of the six to slot home from Campbell, a classic poacher's goal as he skulked around, flirting with being offsides, waiting for the ball to find him. Whether this counts as positional awareness or cherry-picking remains to be seen...

 It seems that only halftime could stop Sanogo at this point, for when play resumed, he almost immediately resumed scoring. His hat-trick actually required some work. In the 46th minute,  Campbell's cross in from the left forced Sanogo to run through two defenders, fend one off to get to the ball, control it with his first touch, and then, as he fell away from the ball, flick it past the charging keeper. It was a nice bit of work, almost-graceful. Of course, "almost" ends up the more-operative part of the phrase as Sanogo tripped himself and fell to his knees as he went over to celebrate with fans. Perhaps this was a message from the universe to mind his manners...

For his last goal, the coup de grace, he again poached, finishing off a rebound the keeper spilled from a decent shot in the 49th minute. By then, the hype-train was full and departing the station. It was a scintillating performance, one for the record books (he is now the Emirates Cup's all-time leading scorer, for one). However, this may prove to be more flash-in-the-pan than coming-out party. I'd love to be wrong on that of course, as I do worry that it gives Arsène a bit more ammo to support the idea that we don't need another striker. Sanogo's eruption may have outshined some of his other, more-subtle contributions such as his passing and hold-up play, but it also masked some of his notable deficiencies. If his performance gave him confidence going forward, good. If it opens the flood-gates on his scoring abilities, grand.

I feel a bit churlish taking this position, as if we should simply bask in the glow of the performance. With that, I'll stop before I act too much like a wet-blanket. It was glorious and giddy, and I'll admit to squealing and leaping around foolishly with each goal. May there be many more to come!