Position : Right-Back
Nation : France
2011/2012 Appearances : 29 (2 as sub)
With almost 5 years at the Grove, Bacary Sagna can easily be counted as one of the senior members of the squad, and of the most consistent, at that.
Always a joy to watch, with his clean tackling, and ability going forwards, Sagna has emerged as one of the most consistent performers, at the club. Signed from Auxerre, he is already considered one of the premier right-backs in the league, and made it into the PFA Team of the Year for the 2007/08 and 2010/11 seasons.
Unfortunately for him, this season, injury has kept him out for a fair amount of games, and, understandably, the Gunners have failed to replace him with an able replacement, and experimented around with 4 or 5 different players. Lets have a look at his season.
Sagna played in the opening fixtures of Arsenal’s campaign, which included lacklustre performances against Newcastle and Liverpool. He played a vital role as Arsenal beat Udinese to reach the group stages of the Champions League. He provided the assist for Walcott’s goal in the second leg, which proved to be the decisive goal of the match.
Sagna missed the mauling at Old Trafford, but played in the 4-3 loss at Blackburn, but played in the wins against Swansea and Bolton. Sagna suffered a leg break in the North London derby against Sp*rs, at White Hart Lane, which would keep him out for a good part of 3 months.
He would make his comeback as a late sub in the 3-2 win over Aston Villa, in the FA Cup. He played his first full 90 minutes, since his return, just 3 days later at the Reebok, where he was clearly the best Arsenal player on the pitch. He never gave Martin Petrov a hint of space, and manned the right flank well.
He came on as a sub, and not a starter, in the 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn, probably as a precautionary measure. A week later, he would be part of the team that won 2-1 at Sunderland late on. However, the story would be completely different in Milan.
Arsenal were beaten 4-0 comprehensively by AC Milan, and Sagna was one of the main culprits in defence. On a poor pitch, which was clearly laid out to stifle Arsenal’s wing play, Sagna was easily beaten on numerous ocassions by the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It seemed to easy for the lanky striker to get past Sagna, who just couldn’t get into grips with the conditions. Milan fashioned numerous chances from the left, including two which resulted in Robinho goals.
Days later, Sagna would play again as Sunderland knocked out Arsenal from the FA Cup. The performance of the season, though, was to come a week later. Having conceded 2 early goals against North London rivals Sp*rs, Bacary Sagna’s powerful header set the tone for Arsenal’s comeback 5-2 win. Not only his goal, but his work rate through the game, to keep Bale, barely allowing the Welshman any space. So much so, Bale switched flanks in the second half.
Sagna also put in a fine defensive display at Anfield a week later, where the Gunners absorbed continual pressure from the Reds for the course of the match. Sagna crossed in a fine ball for van Persie’s equalizer in the 34th minute.
The Frenchman would go on to have more good games under his belt, where he kept Gutierrez of Newcastle, and the likes of Pienaar and Drenthe of Everton, under wraps. He redeemed himself in the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16, where he was rarely troubled by Milan’s attacks.
A mixed performance against QPR was followed by an outstanding display against Manchester City. The visitors couldn’t manage a single shot on target, as Sagna and Co. kept the expensively assembled Citizen’s forward line in their pocket. The topsy-turvy season would see another dip, as Sagna failed to contain the pace of Victor Moses, as Arsenal slipped to a 2-1 home defeat to Wigan. Moses managed to get the better of the right-back on several ocassions, one of which ended up in an early 2nd goal for the Lactics.
Partly at fault for giving Etherington too much room for Stoke’s goal, Sagna and Gervinho linked well at the Britannia, but to limited avail. His season ended prematurely with another leg break, this time unchallenged, in a 3-3 draw to Norwich City. This injury means he will miss the Euro’s, which is rather unfortunate.
So, how exactly has Bacary Sagna fared this mixed season? Here are some key points.
Sagna has bought more solidity and assurance to an ever changing backline, which has been vital for the resurgence of team of late. His consistency set him apart, as does his handling of some of the left-wingers he comes up against. Downing, Bale, Gutierrez, Pienaar, Drenthe, all failed to make an impact, with Sagna around. However, he seems to struggle when there is a lack of cover.
A key feature of his game, he has linked well in support of Walcott. This gives the pacy England winger more freedom on the right. Sagna has linked well with midfield and attack all season, to set up goals and provide crosses.
When up against physical/skillful players, Sagna does tend to get unstuck, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Victor Moses and Mathew Etherington displayed. He was partly at fault for the goals conceded. However, this doesn’t happen too often, and not too much a matter of concern.
An area where he can work upon. The goals conceded against Norwich, and Sp*rs, show a clear lack of positioning, from the defence as a whole, as speedy counterattacks from the opposition lead to goals. While the offside trap has been deployed, almost to a full success rate this campaign, the failure to contain quick attacks needs some working upon.
SUMMARY AND RATING
There is no doubt that Sagna is one of the first names of the team sheet, and it is well deserved, with the level of consistency he has maintained week in, week out. Though there are very few areas, which he needs improving upon, a fit Sagna is always a massive asset to the team. Watching him will also help develop the youth in the ranks, namely Carl Jenkinson and Nico Yennaris. In a season marred by injury, Sagna played a vital role in a winning run, which changed the course of the campaign for the club. He deserves a rating of 7.5.