During the middle of last season, as Arsenal’s form took a huge dip, a lot of criticism was thrown Bacary Sagna’s way. His first drop of form in an Arsenal shirt coincided with the rise of a ‘local lad’ in Carl Jenkinson and there was plenty of chatter that we should be looking to dump the French International.
Sagna has been not only one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers but also one of the Premier League’s most consistent players during his time in England. Always a solid 7 or 8 out of 10.
Always keeping flashy wingers in check, he reminded the world that a full back’s job was defend as well as attack. Whilst he was never a Dani Alves of Emmanuel Eboue going forward, he was, in my opinion, the best full back in the world when it came to defending. Strong, quick, great in the air and a brilliant reader of the game. But last season, he dropped off massively.
A lot pointed to the fact that many of his ‘friends’ had left the club. That he was unhappy. That he was not giving 100%. That having seen Cesc, Song, RVP and more leave in a short amount of time, he had become disillusioned with life at the club. No friends and no future at Arsenal.
People were saying if an offer came in over the summer for him, we should take it. That in Carl Jenkinson and Hector Bellerin we had replacements. And there was good value for that argument. He looked out of form and out of shape.
However, what people seemed to forget is that it was his first dip in form. The saying form is temporary class is permanent. And that Bacary Sagna was only 30.
This was not a 35 year old full back we were talking about, this was a top, top International. What I found interesting at the time is many of the same people who bemoaned the club for letting go of experience too early were so quick to jump on the ‘Sagna Out’ bandwagon. This a 30 year old regular International who had played 350 games, of which 250 of which were for Arsenal.
What people also seemed to forget was that during the 2011/12 season Bacary Sagna broke his leg. Not once but twice. He only returned in October 2012, and did not play a full 90 minutes until November.
He got a lot of criticism for ‘not having heart’ and ‘being unfit for the shirt’ but in reality, maybe he was a tad mentally scared by 2 leg breaks in 1 season, and was struggling for fitness having returned to the squad just in time for the hectic winter period. In hindsight, maybe we as fans got on his back without fully understanding the situation.
Despite the furore around his future, at not point did Bacary Sagna shouls any desire to leave. And the 2013/14 season has definitely seen one of revitalisation. A full pre-season under his belt. No International tournaments. And his double leg break being out of sight out of mind 2 years ago, he is now back to his consistent best.
And where he has perhaps been most important is at centre back. Whilst many screamed that we should spend millions on an Ashley Williams or Mamadou Sakho, Sagna has shown he is more than capable to be 4th choice centre back. None of those mentioned would have joined Arsenal to be 4th choice, and none were good enough for our 1st 11. It is hard to name a centre back in world football who would have come to Arsenal to be 4th choice centre back, and not been a Squillaci or Silvestre. Sagna has done a job.
At right back he is also getting back to his best. Realising he does not need to bomb forward all the time, he is returning to be a top defensive player. Yes, Carl Jenkinson might be better at crossing and driving forward, but a defenders job is to defend, and Bacary Sagna is far superior.
The worry is Sagna’s contract runs out at the end of the season. His experience and ability is something that the club can not lose. Jenkinson is still raw. He can learn from Sagna. And the healthy competition between the 2 should see both continually strive to be better. Add in his importance at centre back, I would be more than happy for Arsene Wenger to break his ‘1 year for a 30 year old’ rule and offer the Frenchman a 3 year deal.
Bacary Sagna is invaluable to us.