Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Sagna’s Manchester United performance gave Arsenal reasons to offer him new deal

By Joss Bennett

Understandably, Arsenal’s midfield and strike-force have collected the majority of the plaudits for the Gunners’ strong start so far this season.

Arsene Wenger’s revitalised side are currently sitting pretty at the top of the table with 25 points from the opening 11 games which have included tricky fixtures against three of what we can now perhaps call England’s ‘Big Six’.

Of course the defence have done their bit too, and this has been duly recognised both in the stands and in the press, with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker usually the names on everyone’s lips.

And now Kieran Gibbs has merited a recall to Roy Hodgson’s senior England side to face Chile and Germany.

However, there’s one player who has always seemed to find it hard to get a mention – at least in the media.

Since joining the club in 2007, Bacary Sagna has been an almost ever-present in the Arsenal side, with consistently excellent performances from right-back, but the Frenchman’s current deal ends at the end of the current season and with every passing week, Arsenal are closer to losing another key player.

Against Manchester United, at the end of a tough run of games against Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in the week before the Old Trafford crunch match, the 30 year old was Arsenal’s top performer, along with the returning Thomas Vermaelen.

Despite not getting any younger, Sagna was not only defensively solid, but also arguably the away side’s most dangerous player in the opposition half.

At the back, the right-back made four tackles and one interception as he battled against Shinji Kagawa – deployed from the start on the left – and in-form Wayne Rooney, who drifted all over the pitch in an attempt to evade his markers. However, Sagna was largely forced back deep into his own defensive third for much of the first half and was forced into four of his six total clearances.

Sagna’s defensive chalkboard for the first half at Old Trafford

In the second half, the former Auxerre man finally got a chance to move forward as the game opened up and Arsenal improved dramatically. He became Arsenal’s biggest threat as he attempted seven of his nine crosses, including one almost perfect cross which he was unlucky to see NIklas Bendtner throw a leg at as the Gunners chased the game (although he only successfully found a teammate with two crosses all evening).

This wasn’t Sagna’s first impressive performance of the season, however, with a 7.11 average rating on whoscored. More impressive still, considering his injury history, is the fact that Sunday’s clash in Manchester was the 11th successive game in which he has completed the full 90 minutes.

But with time quickly running out, Arsenal (and Sagna) need to make a decision sooner rather than later on whether to extend the Frenchman’s time at the club with the likes of A.C. Milan sniffing around. As the Gunners look to win their first trophy for eight years, it seems counterproductive to let another star player – and one of the most consistent over his six years of service – leave the club when it finally looks as if there is a solid base to build from. 

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