Hull City were promoted to the Premier League last season having scored just 61 goals, you’d have to venture down the Championship table as far as Leeds in 13th to find a side who had scored less than Steve Bruce’s Tigers. So, it is little surprise to see Bruce trying to bolster his attacking line as he prepares Hull for their return to the top tier.
George Boyd, although predominantly a left-wing option, has joined on a free transfer and Danny Graham has moved on loan from Sunderland. Apart from Graham, who struggled at Sunderland with a record of 0 goals in 11 games at the Stadium of Light, Bruce’s strikers have no experience of the highest level and there will remain doubt of his side’s ability to score the goals needed to stay in the Premier League next year.
However, Bruce is set to significantly add to his striking options with a £1.6 million move for Ivorian striker Yannick Sagbo from Evian Thonon-Gaillard. It would resonate as a typically low-profile, left-field signing from Bruce who is working within a strict budget at the newly promoted club. We take a look at what Sagbo will bring to the KC Stadium here;
Sagbo, half-brother to West Ham’s right-back Guy Demel, was born in Marseille in 1988 and started his playing career with local side Bouc-Bel-Air, spending nine years with the amateur club before moving to AS Monaco in 2004. After 3 years with the youth team, it was the 2007/08 season in which the striker got his break, featuring heavily as Monaco’s amateur side won the reserves’ professional title, scoring 13 goals in 25 matches.
In the summer of 2008, the Ivorian signed his first professional contract and was elevated to the first team, being handed the number 9 shirt. After featuring in pre-season, he was handed his first professional appearance in a November loss to Olympique Lyonnnais. He went on to make a meagre 2 more substitute appearances over the course of the season, but featured more prominently in Monaco’s following season, making 15 appearances including his first start for the club.
It was in 2010 when he earned his first and only cap for Ivory Coast after playing 5 times for their under 23 squad. With the striker also being of Benin descent and having been tipped to represent them in 2008, it is likely Ivory Coast acted to tie the striker down to represent them in the future.
After having it made clear he would remain on the periphery of Monaco’s squad for the 2010/2011 season, he dropped down to Ligue 2 with Evian in late August. The striker immediately slotted into the club’s plans, making 31 appearances in which 26 were starts, scoring 9 goals as the club earned promotion to the top tier. In the next season, he was even more productive, hitting 10 goals as Evian consolidated their position in Ligue 1.
Another 6 goals came in this last campaign as he took part in Evian’s fairytale run to the final of the Coupe De France. After 3 years with Evian, there were reports of interest from Marseille and clubs in England and Germany. A move to West Ham was rumoured to be likely after Sam Allardyce has previously sent scouts out to watch him and he has suggested to Sky Sports News that a move to Upton Park would be “ideal”. However it seems like Hull have won the race to sign the striker, with Evian having handed the player permission to travel to the north east for discussions over a possible transfer.
Strengths, Style and Weaknesses
After appearing close to a deal for Arsenal‘s Nicklas Bendtner only to see a potential deal fall through after the Dane’s over-excessive wage demands, it seems like Bruce has gone for a cheaper option in the mould of his original target. Playing as a traditional centre-forward, his main strength is using his sizeable 6ft frame to drop off and hold-up the ball with his back to goal, explaining his less than prolific goal-return. In his last season with Evian, he attempted 805 passes and completed 591, suggesting how much he likes to link the play.
As well as providing a hub to move on Evian’s attacks, Sagbo can also be direct, shooting often from distance. The striker hit 60 shots last season at an average of 1.7 per game and with just 6 goals scored, his conversion rate is rather poor at one goal every ten shots. It will provide indication that he can head straight towards goal or how he will need to work on his finishing to make the move to the Premier League.
Speaking to the Hull Daily Mail, Steve Bruce sees variety in Sagbo with the manager saying “he’s a little bit different to what we’ve got. He’s quick, he’s direct and he wants to run in behind”, implying that Bruce envisages Sagbo as somebody who can occupy defenders by running off their shoulders as well as using intelligent movement to drop deep and link the play. He may have to work on his discipline in running off defenders however as the striker was caught offside 37 times in his 35 appearances last season.
Furthermore, Sagbo may have to address his disciplinary issues before moving to England as he picked up 9 yellow cards last season, a big tally for a striker and his two suspensions last year were a blow to Evian. Bruce will not want to lose his striker to unnecessary yellow cards too many times if he does bring him to Hull.
Sagbo has made no secret of his desire to leave Evian, saying
“to be honest I want to move from Evian” and with Marseille potentially showing an interest, there is no dispute over his preferred destination. “If there is a big opportunity here with Marseille I will take it” he has been quoted as saying, “as you know I was born in Marseille and it is my club”.
There does not seem to be any tangible interest from the Stade Veledrome however, so Sagbo has had to look further afield for a move with both Celtic and West Ham have previously expressed cautious interest in the Ivorian. With scouts from those clubs having cooled on the idea of signing Sagbo, it has opened the door for Hull to be successful with their £1.6 million bid.
As the striker travels over for talks with Hull’s hierarchy and to view the training facilities, the 25 year old is likely to be given his big chance as he seems likely to join Hull’s strike-force attempting to keep the Tigers in the Premier League next season. A move to England may even earn the explosive attacker a place in Ivory Coast’s World Cup squad next year. Watch this space.