I’ve got your Bac, Sagna
For a while now it has been widely accepted that this season will be Bacary Sagna’s last at Arsenal. It has come to pass and whilst it did not come as a surprise it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, like white chocolate. If anything it only perpetuates the phrase ‘It’s the hope that kills you’, as only the most cynical fan wouldn’t have hoped for a better outcome especially after the FA Cup win. I find solace in the fact that the end of his career with us was brought about in the most positive of circumstances – winning his first trophy with Arsenal.
It has been confirmed that he will be leaving the club this season. This is where the bad taste really kicks in. Manchester City have been the club linked most in the papers with his services, one of the few clubs who can afford to pay upwards of £100k p/w to a 31 year old. Football players are driven by money as much as any other person and I’ve come to terms with that. However, Sagna could easily get the money he wants back in France or anywhere else. The fact he might join a title rival feels like someone just fed me a concoction of white chocolate and cheap scotch.
The argument that Sagna has been disloyal to the club is quite some way off the mark. It’s a typical fan reaction when a player decides to leave. I’ve come across people telling me that they’re ok with him leaving for another country but if he joins another club in the PL he’s a snake and a c*nt. The gap in logic here is bigger than Kompany’s head. Cesc Fabregas, a self proclaimed Arsenal fan, the boy who we all watched grow up to become the best playmaker in the world, up and went on strike to force a move to his boyhood club. With his best years still ahead of him his antics cost Arsenal a huge deal of money in the deal too. Yet we all love him and want him back at Arsenal. There are some other unsavory names I could throw into the ring here but I won’t. So the argument that a player who decides to leave after seeing his contract out because the club won’t offer him exorbitant wages (and rightly so), is disloyal, is quite frank poo.
He could’ve left at any point of his time with us, which coincided perfectly with our trophy drought and his prime years as a player, yet he decided to stick it out till the end and it paid off. Of all the players that have left this club I believe he has been the most professional which is also a testament to his career.
As far as replacements go, it will be quite hard if not impossible to find anyone of similar quality at RB as Sagna. Most modern day fullbacks are attacking in nature, developed as wingers then pushed back, Kieran Gibbs being a good example. Anyone we bring in won’t give us the same options as Sagna did, excellent positioning, defensively strong, the conqueror of anything and everything in the air and a master of the last ditch. If he lacked something it was in the attacking sense, slowing down after his double leg break in the 2011-2012 season. His crossing was always suspect, hitting the first man more often than not.
Promoting from within is an option, making Jenkinson as first choice and pushing Bellerin up to warm the bench for the first team as backup. The problem with this is that neither of the two are ready to take the extra responsibility which would come with the role. Jenkinson is technically inferior to his younger counter part and defensively nowhere near the quality required for a first team role for a club like Arsenal. A consistent run of games is what he needs and he certainly proved he is a good defender during Sagna’s injury at the start of the 2012-13 season when he got a run of games; his performance vs Man City particularly stood out. Bellerin has been developed at RB from the start, is a more rounded option but experience wise is still an embryo and a place on the bench is as far as I’m willing to consider him for. Although the latter is a better player as he possesses the right balance between attacking and defense. I have more hope that Bellerin will go on to achieve big things than I have for Jenkinson.
A safer, more Arsenal option, would be to promote from within while adding the required experience from outside. This would allow Jenkinson to keep developing and get the required number of games needed to make up for his technical ability before stepping up for a proper first team role. The Jenkinson-Bellerin pairing at RB is some time into the future and would be quite a spectacular disaster if we go into next season with it. It would make sense on many levels to add a first choice RB right now to allow Jenkinson to be embedded into the first team properly, before taking the position fulltime, which I believe is another year into the future.
Certain names have consistently appeared in the papers a la Serge Aurier and Juanfran. The latter would make more sense to me, age and experience wise, the former at 21 years of age will push Jenkinson in training but would certainly halt Bellerin if he wants to jump up to the first team. At 19 years of age I believe in 2 years time he should be ready to take that position, ideally.
Whoever we bring in would certainly have the difficult task of filling Sagna’s boots. If there ever was a player who deserved more plaudits for his time with any club it would be him. I’m sad to see the Bac(k) of Sagna.
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